By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic got back to doing what he does best on Monday when he steamrollered Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-1 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in the opening round of the Australian Open.
Having come through two weeks of quarantine in Adelaide, and a brief but damaging spat with his hosts over the terms of the isolation, the world number one let his tennis do the talking as he eased to a 297th Grand Slam victory.
Djokovic has won eight of his 17 major titles on Melbourne Park’s main showcourt and, even with a smaller crowd than usual, the Serbian looked very much at home on the distinctive blue surface.
“There’s an ongoing love affair with me and this court,” he said to cheers from the fans.
“I’ve been lucky to have so much success on this court and hopefully it will continue for many years. It makes my heart full to see so many people in the stadium. This is the most people I’ve seen on a tennis court in 12 months. Thank you.”
Chardy had never taken a set off his opponent in 13 previous matches and with Djokovic landing three quarters of his first serves, the Frenchman was unable to muster a single break point.
With Djokovic finding the corners with his ranging strokes to rattle up 41 winners, Chardy’s small victories were the occasions when he battled back to hold his serve.
Djokovic brought a definitive end to the unequal contest with back-to-back aces after 91 minutes and will next play American world number 62 Frances Tiafoe in the second round.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ken Ferris)