Smooth progress for Djokovic
A review of the men's singles action on day one of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
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Novak Djokovic began the defence of his Australian Open crown in front of new coach Boris Becker with a 25th straight victory.
Djokovic's first-round clash with Slovakian Lukas Lacko was his first competitive match since hiring Becker as his head coach last month.
There were no alarms for the Serbian, who is bidding to become the second man after Roy Emerson to win four straight titles here, in a 6-3 7-6 (7/2) 6-1 victory - his 25th in a row after a solid end to last season.
He was certainly not at his sharpest, though, on a stage he has made his own.
Having broken 96th-ranked Lacko to lead 4-1, Djokovic's normally ultra solid backhand broke down and he handed the advantage back.
However, Lacko could not hold his own serve and it was Djokovic who took the opening set.
The second was a real tussle lasting 57 minutes, and the Rod Laver Arena crowd really appreciated the efforts of Lacko in keeping his illustrious opponent at bay.
There were still too many errors from the second seed - 30 in all - but he stepped it up during the tie-break and then raced through the deciding set.
It was a 22nd straight win in Melbourne for Djokovic, who meets Argentina's Leonardo Mayer in the second round.
Djokovic hired Becker last month in a move that surprised the tennis world, with the 26-year-old's long-time coach Marian Vajda taking a back seat.
Becker joined Djokovic for the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last month, but the Serbian said: "It was the first official match so, yes, it felt different, but in a positive way.
"We both hope to get the right benefits and the right results right away here in Australia. We worked very hard during the last four weeks. We believe that hard work will pay off, as was the case in the past.
"I did not expect ourselves to understand each other so well right away. So it all goes in the right direction.''
Djokovic was overall content with the match, saying: "I was happy with my concentration. I thought I prepared well. Physically I feel great. I'm very motivated obviously to play my best.
"I know that I haven't played my best, especially in the second set. But also credit to my opponent, who was playing really nice tennis from the baseline.''
A host of other big names had few problems in reaching round two.
David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka, all among the top eight seeds, moved through without losing a set between them.
Third seed Ferrer led the way, beating Colombia's Alejandro Gonzalez 6-3 6-4 6-4 on the main court, Rod Laver Arena.
It was not the most convincing of wins though. There were 13 breaks of serve and Ferrer had to come from behind in both the second and third sets.
Ferrer, who reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park last year, recently split from coach Javier Piles, his mentor of 15 years, and hired Jose Altur.
He said of the Piles decision: "We both broke it off because we were a lot of years together, and we decided to stop. Nothing else. Just that. Nothing personal.
"Javier is very special for me. He's a good friend. I travelled with Jose sometimes so I know him and he knows me.''
Berdych, a potential quarter-final opponent for Ferrer, was also a staight-sets winner, defeating Kazakh Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-3 6-4 6-3. The Czech star did not lose his serve during the contest.
Wawrinka, who pushed eventual champion Novak Djokovic all the way in the match of last season's tournament, was the first man to progress to the last 64. He did so when his opponent Andrey Golubev retired when 6-4 4-1 down.
The Swiss said: "I have more confidence in myself. I know that I can play and go well in the grand slams. I already did.
"I started the year well with winning the first title (in Chennai), so that's giving me a lot of confidence. I'm feeling physically strong and mentally there.''
Richard Gasquet and Mikhail Youzhny were both straight-sets winners but Kevin Anderson needed five to see off rising star Jiri Vesely.
The South African had to fight back from two sets down but, dominating on his own serve, he did just that. Anderson did not lose his serve in the last four sets, eventually prevailing 2-6 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 6-4 6-4.
One seed to fall was the number 12, Tommy Haas, who suffered more injury problems.
The German was troubled by his long-standing shoulder problem against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and eventually quit when 7-5 5-2 down.
Tommy Robredo (17) managed to avoid the trapdoor - but only just.
He won the epic of the day, beating Lukas Rosol 6-1 6-7 (7/9) 3-6 7-6 (7/5) 8-6, but only after coming from 5-1 down in the fourth-set tie-break and then saving a match point in the fifth set.