Novak Djokovic (left) of Serbia thanks Fernando Verdasco of Spain after their first-round match at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic (left) of Serbia thanks Fernando Verdasco of Spain after their first-round match at the Australian Open. MADE NAGI

Below-par Djokovic sees off Verdasco

NOVAK Djokovic has rejected vanquished opponent Fernando Verdasco's complaints about the Melbourne Park courts as he started his 13th Australian Open on a winning note.

The pair met for the second time this year, with the six-time Melbourne Park champion winning again, but by a much more comfortable 6-1 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 margin on his Rod Laver Arena fortress.

Djokovic, 29, had to save five match points to see off 40th-ranked Verdasco in the Doha semi-finals a week-and-a-half ago and was on guard for a difficult first-round bout.

"It was about 10 days ago, the match that we played, so, of course, you still have traces of, I guess, that match, emotions and everything that has happened,” Djokovic said.

"I use it in a way to just analyse and to get myself prepared for what's coming up; to just be able to do things better than I've done that day in Doha.

"Even though I won the match, I thought I hadn't played as well as I did tonight. Starting off a match as I did out of (the) blocks was, obviously, very satisfying to experience.”

There were some testing second-set moments, and Djokovic was far from his scintillating best, but his performance - 24 winners against 34 unforced errors - was enough to progress to round two.

The former world No.1, who occupies the event's second seed behind five-time Open runner-up Andy Murray this year, faces Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin next.

Djokovic's only gripe with his display was dropping serve twice in a rollercoaster second set.

An anguished Verdasco suffered from a serious case of the shanks - skying a series of balls throughout the night - and afterwards claimed the surface played like a slick 1980s indoor carpet.

He also suggested there was variable bounce, although 12-time grand slam winner Djokovic did not find the same problems.

"I mean, obviously, I respect his views and opinion. Of course, everybody I guess experiences differently, the match and the conditions,” Djokovic said.

"I didn't find it, you know, too bad. Last probably three, four years the centre court and also the outside courts have played quicker than the years before that. That's what I feel.

"But in terms of even and uneven bounces, I didn't see any significant difference.

"In terms of performance, I started really well. Great first set. Great third set, as well. Second set was a long set with a lot of unforced errors from both sides.”

HERALD SUN



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