Novak Djokovic began his bid for a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown on Monday night, defeating Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6(5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena.
The seven-time champion extended his unbeaten start to the 2020 ATP Tour season to seven matches, firing 44 winners en route to victory. By reaching the second round in Melbourne for the 14th consecutive year, Djokovic becomes the sixth man to reach 900 tour-level victories. Djokovic joins Guillermo Vilas, Rafael Nadal, Ivan Lendl, Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors in the exclusive club.
Returning to Rod Laver Arena for the first time since defeating Rafael Nadal in straight sets to lift a record-breaking seventh trophy, Djokovic dropped serve four times before defeating the World No. 37 after two hours and 16 minutes. Djokovic improves to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against Struff.
Djokovic is aiming to close the gap on rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam titles race. If he captures his eighth crown in Melbourne, Djokovic would move to within two trophies of Nadal (19) and three of all-time leader Federer (20).
Djokovic will face Tatsuma Ito of Japan or India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran for a spot in the third round. The 77-time tour-level titlist has never faced either potential second-round opponent.
Djokovic started well in the final match of the day at Rod Laver Arena, attacking Struff’s forehand with deep groundstrokes to earn a 4-2 lead. After dropping serve at 5-3, the World No. 2 claimed the opener in a tie-break. With precision on his backhand, Djokovic found a way past his opponent at the net and had success in forehand-to-forehand rallies. The Serbian fired a powerful serve out wide to take the lead after 50 minutes.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion rode the momentum into the second set, comfortably breaking serve on two occasions to move one set from victory. But Struff was not prepared for his night under the lights to come to an end, attacking Djokovic’s serve with great success to take the third set.
The 29-year-old stepped into the court on his returns and dictated rallies with his forehand to push his opponent back and extract errors. After breaking serve twice en route to a 5-2 advantage, Struff claimed the set courtesy of back-to-back double faults from his opponent.
But Djokovic found his rhythm quickly in the fourth set to move towards the second round. The 32-year-old stood on the baseline and exchanged forehands with Struff before moving forward to break in the opening game and soon closed out the match as Struff failed to find the court with a backhand volley.
Struff was aiming to defeat a Top 5 player for the first time (0-4). The German entered the tournament after opening the season with a 2-1 record for Team Germany at the inaugural ATP Cup.
Daniel Evans recovered from two sets down to beat Mackenzie McDonald 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours and 21 minutes. Evans landed 54 winners and broke serve on nine occasions to book his place in the second round.
The 30th seed, who won three of four matches for Great Britain at the inaugural ATP Cup, will face Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round. The 24-year-old beat Laslo Djere of Serbia 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(1).