AUSTRALIAN OPEN MEN’S DAY 2:
Novak Djokovic fought off a challenge from an inspired American, beating Mitchell Kreuger 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 for a spot in the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Djokovic could not hide his early frustration in the third set when he was unable to convert on any of six break point in the first two games against the 230th-ranked qualifier.
But the world No. 1 with six Melbourne trophies already to hand, finally got a handle on the game of the challenger to escape on the first of three match points.
Djokovic managed 42 winners in a battle which took just over two hours.
“It’s great to be back playing healthy and feeling good on court,” the winner said., “It was the fist time playing Mitchell.
“I did my homework but I didn’t know what to expect. It was very competitive, I had to work hard.
“We were both pumped – there was a lot of emotion on court.”
Djokovic has been on fire since Wimbledon and the US Open last season after his comeback from an elbow operation in February.
“It’s been turbulent, a lot of ups and down in terms of tennis,.” the 31-year-old said. “I carried my injury for two years and didn’t pay enough attention to it.
“It got worse and I had to have the operation. It took me months to regain confidence but I found it when I won Wimbledon.
“The last six months have been terrific.”
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev showed full fitness following an ankle injury scare last week, with the 21-year-old German beating Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 after the Slovenian saved a match point in the penultimate game.
Zverev is still in the hunt for a first Grand Slam title and could become the youngest winner here since Djokovic in 2008 aged 20.
Bedene retained his unwanted record of never winning a match in Melbourne over seven Open attempts.
“My ankle’s till swollen, it’s something that’s going to take time,” he said. “But it’s nothing that’s getting worse.”
“When I start playing I don’t feel pain too much, for me it’s fine. I had to stop one practice because of my ankle, but that’s it.
“I was a bit sloppy in the beginning of the match, a little bit sleepy maybe. Being broken was like a wake-up call. i had to start focusing and start playing from the first match on.
“I was happy with how I could turn things around very quickly and after that the match went well.”
Japan’s eighth seed Kei Nishikori had to fight for survival against an inspired qualifier ranked 176.
Kamil Majchrzak, 23, of Poland put Asia’s top player to the test before finally retiring hurt to hand the seed a 3-6, 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-2, 3-0 win.
Majchrzak was denied his first career victory in a Tour-level match as Nishikorii roared back in recovery mode.
2014 Melbourne winner Stan Wawrinka moved through as Ernest Gulbis retired hurt, with the Swiss securing a 3-6, 3-1 win.
He next plays Milos Raonic, who beat patchy Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-4, ended with a 30th ace.
2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose ranking has dropped to 177 after a year of knee injury drama, started with victory as he defeated Martin Klizan 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(5).