Defending champion Novak Djokovic beat Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko in straight sets yesterday as he opened his bid to become the first man to win five Australian Open titles in tennis’s professional era. Top-ranked Serena Williams also won.
Djokovic, 26, beat men’s No. 96 Lacko 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. The second seed, who lost his No. 1 ranking to Spain’s Rafael Nadal last year, is the bookmakers’ favorite to win the season’s opening Grand Slam.
The Serb won four straight tournaments at the end of 2013, including victory against Nadal at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. Yesterday’s win extends his unbeaten run to 25.
“It’s my first competitive match for five or six weeks,” Djokovic said in a televised post-match interview. “I was a bit rusty on the court in the first two sets. It was all working well in the third.”
Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andre Agassi are the only men to have won four Australian Open singles titles since the sport went professional in 1968.
Six-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic will play Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, ranked 98th, in round two.
Williams, 32, took only 57 minutes to beat Ashleigh Barty, an Australian ranked 154 places below her.
The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion came through 6-2, 6-1 in the night match, winning every point where she got her first serve in.
If the American claims the title in Melbourne, she’ll tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for fourth place on the all-time list of women’s Grand Slam singles championships. Margaret Court holds the record with 24.
“It was a little tricky out there,” Williams said at a news conference. “It’s good to get through that match.”
In the second round, Williams will play Serbia’s Vesna Dolonc, ranked 104th.
Williams’s sister Venus, No. 37 in the world rankings, was ousted by No. 22 seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia. She led 3-0 in the final set before losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in her 55th career match at the Australian Open.
Venus, 33, who has won seven Grand Slam singles titles, was diagnosed with energy-sapping Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011. She has since struggled for stamina and strength during some matches, and was sidelined for parts of last year with injuries.
Querrey, Wawrinka Win
In men’s matches, unseeded American Sam Querrey defeated Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo in four sets and No. 3 David Ferrer of Spain ousted Colombia’s Alejandro Gonzalez. Stanislas Wawrinka, the eighth seed from Switzerland, won when Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev quit.
Seventh seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic advanced by beating Aleksandr Nedovyesov in straight sets. Jerzy Janowicz, the 20th seed, came back to defeat Australia’s Jordan Thompson in five sets.
In women’s play, sixth-seed Petra Kvitova, the Czech who won Wimbledon in 2011, was beaten in three sets by Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum, a player ranked 82 places below her.
Britain’s only women in the draw, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, both lost, while fourth-seed Li Na of China, who has reached the Australian Open final two of the last three years, won 6-2, 6-0 against Croatia’s Ana Konjuh.
Sara Errani of Italy, the seventh seed, lost 6-3, 6-2 to Julia Goerges of Germany. Alison Riske, ranked 55th, upset 23rd-seeded Elena Vesnina of Russia, while fellow American Madison Keys got past Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria in three sets.
In today’s matches, Nadal gets his tournament under way against Australian Bernard Tomic, while sixth-seed Roger Federer faces James Duckworth, an Australian ranked 134th. Britain’s Andy Murray, seeded fourth, plays Japan’s Go Soeda.
In women’s matches, defending champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is up against Sweden’s Johanna Larsson, while third-seed Maria Sharapova of Russia plays American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.