Winning starts for Djokovic and Serena
DEFENDING champion Novak Djokovic wore down Lukas Lacko to win his first competitive match under new coach Boris Becker at the Australian Open yesterday.
The Serbian world No. 2, bidding to win a fourth consecutive Australian title and fifth overall, had to work hard to subdue the 96th-ranked Slovak.
He took the second set in a tie-breaker, sweeping to victory 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 in 1 hour and 50 minutes. He will face Argentina's Leonardo Mayer in the next round.
With tennis great Becker courtside, Djokovic looked far from his best and made 30 unforced errors. But he interspersed them with some glorious stretched volleys for winners.
"It's my first competitive match this season, after a five- to six-week break, and I was rusty in the first two sets," Djokovic said. "I was struggling to find rhythm on my backhand side."
In the women's singles, a ruthless Serena Williams kicked off her bid for an 18th grand-slam title with a 6-2, 6-1 demolition of local wildcard Ashleigh Barty.
After breaking the 155th-ranked Barty early, Williams reeled off seven consecutive games to march to a 4-0 lead in the second set.
A former Wimbledon girls' champion, Barty was powerless to prevent the American - who did not lose a point off her first serve - from cruising to her 23rd consecutive win. Williams faces Serbia's Vesna Dolonc in the next round.
But Venus Williams, who was unseeded, crashed out at the first hurdle yesterday, losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to No. 22 seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
Thai world No. 88 Luksika Kumkhum sprang the biggest upset of the day by beating sixth seed Petra Kvitova 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.