Australian Open: Djokovic makes winning return as he begins quest for 22nd slam

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Novak Djokovic swept through his first Australian Open match in two years as his mission to create more tennis history began in impressive style.

Chasing a 10th Australian Open title, and the major that would take him level with Rafael Nadal's record of 22 men's singles grand slams, Djokovic beat Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 6-4 6-0.

Deported from Melbourne last year amid a vaccination saga, and denied the chance to defend his title, Djokovic received a rousing welcome on Rod Laver Arena.

The contest did not begin until shortly after 2230 local time, with Andy Murray's five-set afternoon battle against Matteo Berrettini having been followed by a three-set struggle for Ons Jabeur in the first night match.

Djokovic began with an ace, but all eyes were on how he would cope with a left hamstring problem that has been affecting his preparation. It required strapping, but ultimately it did not prove a worrying factor.

Entering the contest, world number 75 Carballes Baena had a 0-9 career record against top-10 players, so the match went much as expected.

The underdog had three break points in the fifth game but could not capitalise as Djokovic came from 0-40 behind to stay on serve. There was no escape from 0-40 for Carballes Baena in the next game, though, as Djokovic sealed the first break with a brutally brilliant forehand.

That established the tone, with Djokovic breaking in game seven of the second set on his way to a firm stranglehold. Once the second set was won, Djokovic steamed through the third, dropping only four points.

Data slam: Never in doubt

Djokovic is now 67-2 in grand slam first-round matches. His only losses have come in Australia, against Marat Safin in 2005 and Paul Goldstein a year later.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 41/21
Carballes Baena – 14/16

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 9/1
Carballes Baena – 4/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 5/9
Carballes Baena – 0/3