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03 December 2023

Confident Djokovic makes blazing start

Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a backhand in his first round match against Paolo Lorenzi of Italy during day two of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Tuesday in Australia. (GETTY)


World number one Novak Djokovic dropped just two games in his opening match at the Australian Open on Tuesday and declared he was confident he had the measure of his main title rivals.

Djokovic burnt off Italian opponent Paolo Lorenzi 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 in only 1hr 32min to impressively launch the defence of the title he won last year against Andy Murray.

The Serbian top seed faces a statistically tough task in defending his Australian crown with only nine successful title defences here in the Open era, compared with 17 at Wimbledon and 13 at Roland Garros.

But Djokovic is oozing with confidence after his sensational 2011 when he claimed three of the four Grand Slams and seized the top ranking from Rafael Nadal last July.

Only four men on five occasions have won three or more consecutive Grand Slams in the Open era - Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Nadal and Federer twice.

"I feel much more complete as a player and as a person as well," Djokovic said.

"Mentally I've gained a lot of experience playing at the top level in the last couple of years.

"I understand the game better, I understand what I need to do in order to win major events.

"I just have more confidence that I'm playing on right now. I just believe that I can win, especially against the biggest rivals in the major events."

Last year's Australian Open triumph was the first of seven straight tournament wins in a 41-match winning streak that was finally ended by Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open.

Djokovic, 24, won a career-best 10 titles in 11 finals last year. He defeated world number two Nadal six times and overall was 21-4 against top-10 opponents.

The Australian Open is the only Slam event where Djokovic has lost in the first round in 2005 and 2006, but he was never in any danger of going out against journeyman Lorenzi.

He dismantled the 109-ranked Lorenzi's service nine times and such was the lack of pressure that Djokovic even had the audacity to play a trick shot through his legs for a winning point.

"It took me a couple games to get into the right rhythm," Djokovic said.

"It was difficult conditions. It was really the hottest day since I've arrived in Melbourne, so I was trying to get used to that.

"But I played well after the first set was finished."

Djokovic will next play Colombia's 56th-ranked Santiago Giraldo, whom he beat in the first round at the 2007 French Open.