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05 June 2023

Djokovic inspired by historic hat-trick bid


Novak Djokovic revealed his deep desire to create history with the first hat-trick of Australian Open titles after cruising through his opening match on Monday.

The Serbian world number one was in imperious form as he tossed aside Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets in just 1hr 42min on Rod Laver Arena to waltz into the second round of the year's first Grand Slam event.

Djokovic, bidding to become the first player in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Opens, was in a different league to the 60th-ranked Mathieu, running through to his 15th straight match win in Melbourne.

Only two men, Jack Crawford (1931-33) and Roy Emerson (1963-67), have won three or more straight titles in the history of the Australian Open.

The top seed is chasing his fourth Australian crown, and his sixth major title overall, at the venue where he broke through for his first Grand Slam win in 2008.

"Any achievement, especially if it's part of history, would mean a lot to me," Djokovic said after downing Mathieu, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5.

"I love this sport. This sport is my life since I was four years old. I try to generate this great desire to play this sport from that love."

"You know, it's not about winning or losing; it's about being passionate about what you do. I guess as long as it's like that I'll be happy to play, with lots of commitment, lots of motivation."

The Serb top seed did not drop serve and broke the Frenchman's service four times in a commanding performance ahead of his next round encounter with American Ryan Harrison.

In a dominant display, the 25-year-old Djokovic won 95 points to Mathieu's 68 and made a total of 31 winners outnumbering his 15 unforced errors.

Djokovic cleaned up 84 percent of his first service points and was a high 75 percent on his second serve points.

It was Djokovic's fifth win in six meetings with Mathieu, who was playing in his first Australian Open since 2009 after injury ruled him out for the last three editions.

Djokovic, looking to bounce back from his US Open final defeat to Andy Murray, is drawn to face the third-seeded Scot in the semi-finals, and possibly 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the final.

Djokovic needed a record 5hr 53min to overcome Rafael Nadal in last year's five-set epic Australian Open final, but Nadal is not in Melbourne this time as he recovers from a virus.