Aus Open: Djokovic serves up masterclass on favourite court, Kyrgios brings the noise to subdued ‘People’s Court’


Melbourne: Novak Djokovic got back to doing what he does best on Monday when he steamrollered Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-1 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in the opening round of the Australian Open. Having come through two weeks of quarantine in Adelaide, and a brief but damaging spat with his hosts over the terms of the isolation, the world number one let his tennis do the talking as he eased to a 297th Grand Slam victory.

Djokovic has won eight of his 17 major titles on Melbourne Park’s main showcourt and, even with a smaller crowd than usual, the Serbian looked very much at home on the distinctive blue surface. 

“There’s an ongoing love affair with me and this court,” he said to cheers from the fans. “I’ve been lucky to have so much success on this court and hopefully it will continue for many years. It makes my heart full to see so many people in the stadium. This is the most people I`ve seen on a tennis court in 12 months. Thank you.”

Chardy had never taken a set off his opponent in 13 previous matches and with Djokovic landing three quarters of his first serves, the Frenchman was unable to muster a single break point.
With Djokovic finding the corners with his ranging strokes to rattle up 41 winners, Chardy’s small victories were the occasions when he battled back to hold his serve.

Djokovic brought a definitive end to the unequal contest with back-to-back aces after 91 minutes and will next play American world number 64 Frances Tiafoe in the second round. 

Kyrgios brings the noise to subdued ‘People’s Court’ 

Nick Kyrgios did his best to create his own atmosphere in a subdued John Cain Arena on Monday as he cruised into the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-4 6-4 victory over qualifier Frederico Ferreira Silva. The Australian can usually expect a febrile atmosphere when he plays on his favourite court, but a local coronavirus outbreak and unseasonably cold weather kept many punters away. Those who did turn up were treated to some vintage Kyrgios moments – a racket thrown across the court, a few choice words towards his box and a few more at the umpire as well as a trademark “tweener”.

Scattered fans in the open air stadium, at best a quarter full, wore puffer jackets and blankets, clearly backing the home favourite with occasional cheers and fist bumps. “Honestly it was pretty average. I haven`t played a Grand Slam match in over a year. I was very nervous walking out here and I knew I wouldn`t be able to play my best game,” Kyrgios said after the match.

“I was very fortunate that Covid didn’t affect me or my family. I used it as a massive reset and I’m just glad to be back out here.”

Kyrgios, who fronted GQ magazine Australia’s digital cover, is undergoing a rebrand after he put in place new management and looked to reform his bad boy image. His public support for communities hit hard by Australia’s horrendous bushfires last year endeared him to a wider audience than fans of the game.

Kyrgios certainly played to the local view of top tennis players being divas when he called world number one Novak Djokovic a “tool” when the Serbian, under Australia’s 14-day quarantine, requested houses with tennis courts for players to see out their isolation.

The 25-year-old Australian has always had plenty of tennis talent and the world number 47 had far too much for his Portuguese opponent, who was once a rival in the junior ranks but was making his Grand Slam main draw singles debut. Kyrgios next plays French 29th seed Ugo Humbert — almost certainly on what he calls the “People`s Court” — as he looks to at least match his run to the quarter-finals here in 2015.

Thiem eases into second round 

Dominic Thiem overcame an early wobble before overpowering Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6(2) 6-2 6-3 to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Monday. Third seed Thiem was broken twice in the first set and had to fight off a set point at 6-5 before rallying to take the tiebreak at Rod Laver Arena.

The Austrian, beaten in a five-set final by Novak Djokovic last year, found his rhythm and ended up racing to the finish, breaking Kukushkin to love to seal the match. US Open champion Thiem will meet the winner of Dominik Koepfer and Hugo Dellien for a place in the third round.

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Sagar Biswas

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