Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Novak's 22nd in a row at Melbourne Park

First night session at Rod Laver Arena had as its first instalment Novak Djokovic returning from his scene of triumph a year less one fortnight ago.  Not a perfect reunion since Andy Murray wasn't present - the opponent here would be Slovakia's Lukas Lacko.  Also the Chair Umpire had been replaced by someone else.

Djokovic was gunning for four Aus Opens in succession, and the first round at night, whilst not exactly terrifying in prospect as part of the Serbian number two seed's plans for achieving that goal, was nevertheless compulsory to win and with that brought a unique pressure.

The first few games were scrappy, and Djokovic faced break points on his opening serve.  If Lacko had converted one of them, the flow of the match will have differed - the result may not have changed but the route taken to it could have been more interesting.  As it was, Djokovic, as he so often does to the mass annoyance of his opponents, saved the break points which he puts away in a collection box and gives as presents to friends and family at Christmas.

Novak revved up his Serbian engine at about what would end up being half way through set one, returning with all the precision of a vehicle built in a country other than Serbia, and defending as only Djokovic can.  Proving that he is a worthy number two-wanting to return to-number one he released the Lacko shackles and broke serve once, enough to take the set 6-3.

Having been released, someone must have found Lukas wandering lost around Melbourne Park and returned him to Lost and Found.  Once back on court, he resumed his position on the heels of Djokovic for the entire second set, a nagging pose to which Novak certainly took objection.

Lukas lost his serve at one point, but found it again and assisted Novak to misplace his and games went with the server until a tie break.  Novak was growing tired of the Slovakian stalking him so ripped through the tiebreak for the loss of just the odd couple of points (that should read even if my memory of arithmetic is half decent)

Two sets up and Novak would be satisfied with the scoreline but not so much with his backhand which was acting like a spoilt child tonight, staying out when it was told several times to keep within the boundaries given and generally behaving erratically.   Novak needed to introduce more discipline to the backhand.

Well the third set saw a return to the Djokovic that people know and love - at least a subset of people being his family, friends and fans.  Holding serve with ease for the first two tries, and in between savaging the Lacko serve to achieve a 3-0 lead, the number two seed had sown another seed - and he reaped it with a third set win 6-1 to finalise proceedings 6-3 7-6 6-1.

Lukas Lacko came, he saw, and was conquered.

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