Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Defending champion Novak Djokovic beat Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko in straight sets as he bids to become the first man in the professional era to win five Australian Open tennis titles. Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova lost.
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. Today’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.
The six-time Grand Slam champion will play Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, ranked 98, in round two.
Williams, who is No. 37 in the world rankings and wasn’t seeded, was ousted by No. 22 seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia as the women’s singles also got underway.
The American led 3-0 in the final set before losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in her 55th career match at the Australian Open.
Williams, 33, had four straight wins before losing to Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in the final of a warmup tournament in Auckland, New Zealand. Williams had eight double faults and 56 unforced errors in today’s match against the 25-year-old Makarova, who had 26 unforced errors.
“I was hitting the ball well this week, and obviously it was disappointing to not win the first round,” Williams said in a news conference. “Losing any match is never any fun, especially in a major.”
Williams, who has won seven Grand Slam singles titles, was diagnosed with energy-sapping Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011. She has since struggled during some of her matches with stamina and strength, and was sidelined for parts of last year with several 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 of the Czech Republic 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 women’s 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.
Williams’s sister, Serena, who has won the tournament five times, is playing Australia’s Ashleigh Barty tonight.
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