Australian Open: Novak Djokovic soaks in applause after dominant first round win over Roberto Carballes Baena

Novak Djokovic has soaked up thunderous applause in his first match back at the Australian Open, after last year's deportation drama, as the nine-time champion outclassed Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 6-4 6-0 in a flawless start to his title bid.

Returning to Melbourne Park, where the prolific Serb was denied a title defence in 2022, after refusing a COVID-19 vaccination, Djokovic saved three early breakpoints to win the first set, as fans sang his name.

"I felt very welcome on the court, especially the Serbian community that is big here in Australia has welcomed me in an incredible way," he said. "So much support, so much love.

Djokovic in action.
Djokovic in action. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I couldn't ask for a better start to the tournament in terms of support, in terms of how I felt on the court and also playing."

A heavily strapped left thigh, due to a hamstring strain suffered en route to the Adelaide title, proved little hindrance for the 35-year-old, who enjoyed his time in front of the Rod Laver Arena crowd, as he took the second to double his lead.

Striking the ball superbly throughout, Djokovic underlined his credentials as favourite to win the title, which would take him level with holder Rafa Nadal on 22 Grand Slams, by wrestling Carballes Baena into submission in a one-sided third set.

Djokovic can claim grab the world No.1 ranking from Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz by winning the title in Melbourne, but insists he isn't too focused on that and the big numbers he can achieve at the year's first major.

"It's important to try to get as close as possible to the balance between using possibilities and achievements out there as a motivational factor, as a goal-setting type of motivation that will drive you as a guiding star," he said.

"At the same time, balance it with an everyday task, so that you have to accomplish in a proper way in order to stay in the present moment, which is when you are able to perform your best, at least in my case.

"I've been in the situations before, where I've played for really big historic things and I've been blessed to have more success than failures in those particular situations. I know how to behave, I know how to handle it.

"Let's see how far I can go."

Watched by his parents and brother, who have proven to be lucky charms in the stands, when Djokovic won his first Grand Slam, the fourth seed also extended his run without defeat on Australian soil to 35 matches.

"I'm really glad to have them here," he said."The last time they were here - the only time they were - was in 2008. We have some great memories about the time that they spent here together 15 years ago.

"Hopefully, they can stay all the way, I can stay all the way and we can have another great celebration."

Reuters

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