It’s been so lengthy since he had a sizeable crowd to play for, the showman in Novak Djokovic simply had to come out.
Top-ranked Djokovic started his Australian Open title protection with a scientific, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jeremy Chardy within the closing act of the day 1 program on Rod Laver Arena.
“Makes my heart full to see the gang within the stadium once more,” Djokovic said in post-match interview at the 15,000-seat arena, which was about one-third full. “This is the most people I’ve seen on the tennis court in 12 months. I really … I really, really appreciate your support in coming out tonight.”
He bristled on the suggestion that he’d been pissed off throughout quarantine, focusing once more on the followers.
“I’m just really glad we are free. We’re playing tennis,” he said. “I’m really glad we’re back in Australia. It’s a happy place for us. Happy Slam.”
The whole crowd Monday at Melbourne Park was 17,922, together with day and night time periods in three zones separated to improve social-distancing measures. It was properly down on the 64,387 followers that crammed onto the grounds on Day 1 of final yr’s Australian Open, however far more than some other main since then.
After an austere yr for tennis throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a unanimous chorus from gamers throughout the day, beginning with Naomi Osaka within the opening match on Rod Laver, to Serena and Venus Williams, and to mercurial native favourite Nick Kyrgios, who closed the day on the so-called Peoples’ courtroom: Thanks for coming.
While Djokovic spoke of his “love affair” with the principle present courtroom, the place he has gained eight Australian titles, Kyrgios was closing the day’s program out on the third area stadium — the place well mannered applause is all the time secondary to whoops and whistles — with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Frederico Silva.
After his first Grand Slam match in a yr, Kyrgios instructed the gang “it felt normal, to be honest, you guys were going nuts. It was good to see. Let’s hope we can continue it.”
There’s no love misplaced between Djokovic and Kyrgios, who’ve been buying and selling verbal barbs for months and added to them this week.
Day 1 concluded with a have a look at the way forward for tennis, and 21-year-old, No. 11-seeded Denis Shapovalov lastly beat 19-year-old Jannik Sinner 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in a marathon lasting nearly 4 hours on Margaret Court Arena. It ended at 12:49 a.m. native time.
Since shedding to Rafael Nadal within the quarterfinals of final yr’s French Open, Sinner has collected his first two ATP titles — the second of these was the Great Ocean Road Open on Sunday.
The state authorities is permitting up to 30,000 individuals per day into Melbourne Park, about 50% of capability. There had been no followers allowed on the U.S. Open, solely about 1,000 per day had been allowed at Roland Garros and Wimbledon was canceled.
But with the Australian Open beginning three weeks later than typical — now it is outdoors the summer time holidays — and a few individuals nonetheless nervous about going out in crowds following a harsh Melbourne lockdown final yr, it was a predictably cautious begin.
That wasn’t the case in any respect for Serena Williams, who arrived prepared to race to begin her bid for a record-equaling twenty fourth Grand Slam singles title.
In a colourful one-legged catsuit she mentioned was impressed by former Olympic champion Florence Griffith Joyner, Williams dropped her opening serve however rebounded to win 10 consecutive video games and beat Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1.
“Vintage ’Rena,” she mentioned of her efficiency. There had been no indicators of the best shoulder concern that led her to withdraw from the semifinals of a tuneup event final week.
Speed was of the essence additionally for No. 2-ranked Simona Halep and No. 3 Osaka, who every solely dropped three video games.
U.S. Open champion Osaka beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2, and two-time main winner Halep had a 6-2, 6-1 win over Australian wild-card entry Lizette Cabrera.
Joining them within the second spherical had been No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, French Open winner Iga Swiatek and 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu, coming back from 15 months on the sidelines.
Venus Williams, a seven-time main winner, gained a Grand Slam match for the primary time since 2019.
Playing in her twenty first Australian Open, the elder Williams beat Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2. At 40, Venus is the oldest girl on this yr’s draw and simply the sixth participant in her 40s to compete on the Australian Open.
Two weeks in onerous lockdown did not assist 2016 Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber, who misplaced to Bernarda Pera.
U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem beat Mikhail Kukushkin in three robust units in his first match on the event since shedding final yr’s ultimate to Djokovic.
Alexander Zverev, who misplaced the ultimate to Thiem in New York, misplaced his mood within the second set and belted his racket into the courtroom. Letting off a bit of steam labored, and he recovered to beat No. 73-ranked Marcos Giron 6-7 (8), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-2.
Also advancing had been No. 14 Milos Raonic, former champion Stan Wawrinka and Americans Reilly Opelka, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, who subsequent performs Djokovic.
Williams’ inspiration was clear when she began her match.
Griffith Joyner was a sprinting and trend icon within the Eighties, setting world data that also stand for the ladies’s 100- and 200-meter sprints. She died in 1998, the identical yr Serena Williams contested her first Australian Open.
“Yeah, I was inspired by Flo-Jo, who was a wonderful track athlete, amazing athlete when I was growing up,” Williams mentioned. “Well, watching her trend, simply all the time altering, her outfits had been all the time superb.
“This year we thought of what can we do to keep elevating the Serena Williams on the court.”