Adelaide International 1: Novak Djokovic earns first win of season, Daniil Medvedev advances
Adelaide : Competing in his first singles match of the season, Novak Djokovic quickly found his range to overcome Frenchman Constant Lestienne 6-3, 6-2 and reach the second round at the Adelaide International 1, here.
The win kept a potential Djokovic versus Daniil Medvedev semifinal on track after the third seed earlier advanced when Lorenzo Sonego retired with a right arm injury at 7-6(6), 2-1 (ret).
While Djokovic and Lestienne were evenly matched through the first five games, once the top seed broke the floodgates opened for a victory, much to the delight of a packed centre court at The Drive.
“For the first match I can’t complain, I played very well,” Djokovic said. “I thought the first probably six games were very competitive. “I’ve never faced him before today’s match. He’s a counter-puncher.
He doesn’t make too many mistakes and he kind of absorbs the pace from his opponent, kind of tricky serve, hits his spots but once I made that break at 3-2 first set I felt like I stepped it up one or two levels and played really good tennis the rest of the match.”
Not since the Australian Open fourth round five years ago had the former world No.1 lost a singles match Down Under. That came against Hyeon Chung and while world No.65 Lestienne was ranked only seven places below the South Korean at the time of that boilover, this always presented a tough opening ask for a 30-year-old whose best had come at Challenger level.
Djokovic awaits Australian Jordan Thompson or another Frenchman Quentin Halys for a return to the quarterfinals at the event he won back in 2007. Earlier, Medvedev produced an almighty escape, saving nine set points against Lorenzo Sonego before the Italian retired hurt.
In his first singles clash on Australian soil since last year’s agonising five-set defeat to Rafael Nadal in the final at Melbourne Park, the third seed was clutch under pressure to deny the world No.45 the early advantage.
“Yeah I didn’t know it was nine [set points],” Medvedev said after the 7-6(6), 2-1 (ret) victory. “That’s actually crazy. Probably maybe the first time in my life I’ve saved nine set points. “What a match to start the year.
Unfortunate for everybody that it finished early in a way even if we played one hour and 40 minutes but happy to be through.” Sonego, a champion in Metz last year, had never faced the former world No.1 but dictated for much of the opening set, frequently forging his way to net to keep his 26-year-old opponent on the back foot.
The Italian held six set points on his opponent’s serve at 5-4 but time and again Medvedev came up with the big serves when he needed them. Again Sonego had his chances two games later when three more set points went begging from 0-40 on his opponent’s serve, but the seeds of doubt were now planted and after 80 minutes Medvedev finally turned the tide in his favour to snatch the first set in a tiebreak.
“I mean to be honest 0-40 was a tough moment. I didn’t count but I knew I saved a lot of set points,” Medvedev said. “But if I’m not mistaken we didn’t have a lot of rallies to play. A lot of them were from my good serves or him missing a couple of returns, so I’m like ‘OK I saved this great game, now I have to bring the momentum to my side and now I’m 0-40 in the next one’.
“That’s not so good in terms of tennis but I knew I had no other choice but to try to come back in this game also and I’m really happy that I managed to stay strong and bring the set to my favour.” Trailing 1-2 in the second set, Sonego called for treatment on his right arm before calling time on the match. Medvedev will next meet Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic for a place in the quarterfinals.