By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic was delighted with his return to the grand slam arena after a long injury layoff, the Serb having dealt American Donald Young a 6-1 6-2 6-4 thrashing to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Wearing a compression sleeve on his serving arm, Djokovic showed no signs of the elbow trouble that curtailed his 2017 campaign as he swung freely to amass 33 winners during the one hour and 51 minute romp at a sunbathed Margaret Court Arena.
The six-times Melbourne Park champion, seeded 14th, dropped to his knees and patted the blue court affectionately after completing his first match since retiring hurt from a Wimbledon quarter-final last July.
“It felt great to be back on the court and compete again. It’s been a while,” the former world number one told reporters.
“I did have various emotions, mostly good ones. Excitement, joy, gratitude for being able to have an opportunity to compete. Not a while ago, about three weeks ago, I didn’t know whether I’m going to play Australia or not.
“The first two sets went extremely well, considering that I haven’t played for six months. The third was, you know, up and down a little bit, but in general was a great performance.”
Along with the addition of Andre Agassi to his coaching team, Djokovic also introduced a new service action to allow for his elbow injury.
It seems, however, to still be a work in progress as he managed to land barely half of his first serves against the 63rd-ranked American.
“Second serve was very, very good. I’m very happy with the second serve. First serve was kind of up and down,” he said.
“When you come back after a long time and you play the first match, you know, obviously all the things are a bit exaggerated, whatever is not working well. You think, ‘Wow’.
“All in all, I’m quite pleased.
“I know that it’s going to take a little bit of time for me to kind of work my way in and get used to the specific changes that I’ve made in my service motion.
“It wasn’t ideal, but it was still good.”
The 12-times grand slam champion will face a huge step up in class in the next round, against Frenchman Gael Monfils, a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2016.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury/John O’Brien)