Novak Djokovic moved into the Australian Open’s second round with ominous ease Monday as he goes in search of a historic title hattrick at the season’s opening Grand Slam.
The world number one headlined a bright and windy first day at Melbourne Park, with former women’s champion Maria Sharapova also starting impressively and China’s Li Na moving safely through.
A year ago, the Serb departed the Australian venue in the early hours after his enthralling 5hr 53min victory over Rafael Nadal, the longest ever Grand Slam final.
Monday’s match against Paul-Henri Mathieu lasted less than a third of that time as Djokovic won 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 in 1hr 42min to move one step closer to his third straight title, a feat unprecedented in the professional era.
Only two men, Jack Crawford (1931-33) and Roy Emerson (1963-67), have won three or more straight titles in the history of the tournament.
“Any achievement, especially if it’s part of history, would mean a lot to me. I love this sport,” Djokovic said.
Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic dug deep to dump Australian warhorse Lleyton Hewitt in the first round. Eighth-seeded Tipsarevic out-fought the tenacious Hewitt, in his record 17th consecutive appearance here, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-3 in just over three hours.
Serena Williams was in the stands to watch her sister Venus reach round two with a win against Galina Voskoboeva, but Sharapova, the 2008 champion, was the pick of the women's players after her 6-0, 6-0 crushing of Olga Puchkova.
Sharapova had not played this year after pulling out of the Brisbane International with a collarbone problem, but she showed few signs of rust against her 107th-ranked fellow Russian.
Li dismissed Kazakhstan’s Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1, 6-3.