Novak Djokovic stumbles to Australian Open win over 'amazing' qualifier Dino Prizmic

World No 1 starts bid for 11th Melbourne Park title with error-strewn victory over teenager

Novak Djokovic, right, speaks to Dino Prizmic after their Australian Open first round match at Melbourne Park. AP
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Novak Djokovic started his bid for a 25th Grand Slam title with an error-strewn victory over qualifier Dino Prizmic at the Australian Open on Sunday.

The world No 1, aiming to win an 11th crown in the year's opening major, showed no sign of the right wrist problem that hampered his build-up but still dropped a set on his way to a 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 first-round win over the 18-year-old Croat.

Prizmic, playing in his first Grand Slam match, saved six match points before Djokovic secured his spot in Round 2 for a 17th consecutive year, stretching his record at Melbourne Park to 90-8.

“I started off very well for a 36-year-old guy. But, geez, when you think about it, I'm double his age,” Djokovic said.

“Reality hit hard tonight,” he added, smiling. “But credit to him, he had an incredible game plan, he had an answer to everything.

“He deserves all the applause. He is an amazing player, he handled himself incredibly well on the court. This is his moment. It could easily have been his match as well. He showed great mentality and resilience

“I certainly want to be in his corner. So hopefully he will invite me, because he will make some big things in his career that's for sure.

“I had some good moments and other moments I wish I could have played better. Physically, I'm still finding myself on court.”

Meanwhile, fifth seed Andrey Rublev needed four hours to beat Thiago Seyboth Wild 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6. He later admitted fears his match would end like his friend Daniil Medvedev's did at last year's French Open – in an upset.

“For sure, I will not forget this one,” said Rublev, who opened the year with a title in Hong Kong. “Thiago is a super dangerous player. Super talented. He’s hitting so hard, so clean.”

Taylor Fritz needed a medical timeout to get his left ankle taped in the second set before he recovered to beat Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in a see-sawing four-hour match.

The first match on Rod Laver had been over quickly, with Italy's Davis Cup star Jannik Sinner advancing after a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 first-round win over No 59-ranked Botic van de Zandschulp.

American 17th seed Frances Tiafoe triumphed in four sets against world No 39 Borna Coric, beating the Croat 6-3, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3.

In the women's draw, eighth seed Maria Sakkari was relieved to beat Nao Hibino of Japan 6-4, 6-1, her first Grand Slam win since last year’s Australian Open.

“I lost three first rounds in my last three Grand Slams,” she said. “For me, it was a very difficult match today emotionally. I’m happy I managed to do the job right and play a good second set.”

Reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka smashed German teenager Ella Seidel 6-0, 6-1 in just 53 minutes, while ninth seeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova rallied from a set and a break down to beat Mai Hontama of Japan 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Caroline Wozniacki, the 2018 champion, won her first match back at Melbourne Park since taking a career break to become a mother when Magda Linette retired while trailing 6-2, 2-0.

“This is not how I wanted to finish it, and I really hope that it's not too serious and that she'll recover soon,” said Wozniacki.

The former world No 1, who retired in 2020, said it felt good to be back at Melbourne Park, six years after she lifted her only Grand Slam title. “I feel at home here,” she said. “The court brings back amazing memories.”

Updated: January 14, 2024, 2:37 PM