Australian Open: Rafa Nadal's exit opens up Grand Slam window of opportunity for Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is already back in the good books at the Australian Open, after a perfect start to his campaign and will fancy his chances of equalling Rafa Nadal's record of 22 Grand Slam wins at a tournament he has ruled with an iron fist.

Nine-time champion Djokovic was denied a title defence last year for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 and Nadal won the crown in his absence, but the Serbian has picked up where he left off, with an imperious first-round win.

Nadal's injury-plagued defeat in the second round will be another boost for Djokovic, who can grab a record-extending 10th crown, as well as the world No.1 ranking, with a title run at Melbourne.

Rafa Nadal fell to a second-round defeat.
Rafa Nadal fell to a second-round defeat. Photo credit: Getty Images

"They're just numbers at the end of the day," said Djokovic, when asked about the targets in his sights. "I've been in the situations before where I've played for really big historic things, I know how to handle it... let's see how far I can go.

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

"But 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."

Djokovic's dominant 6-3 6-4 6-0 win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena is not the only positive he takes before his next match against French qualifier Enzo Couacaud.

The 35-year-old's tournament preparation was limited by a left hamstring injury sustained during his title run in Adelaide and he concedes he had some concerns before his opening-round win.

"I was kind of testing my leg a little bit," he said. "The great sign was that the longer the match went, the better I felt, the better I moved.

"It's not ideal, but it's getting there."

The most intriguing contest in the women's draw pits WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia against 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez in the third match on Rod Laver Arena.

Fourth seed Garcia scored a convincing victory over Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov and will face another Canadian in Fernandez, who beat Alize Cornet to earn her first main draw win at Melbourne Park.

"She did great in the Slams in the past and she's very young player, very talented lefty," Garcia said. "It's a good test."

Andy Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne, will take on Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis, as he aims to back up his five-sets victory over Matteo Berrettini by earning a trip to the third round for the first time since 2017.