Djokovic beats Lestienne for winning start to 2023

Jan 2, 2023, 1:37 PM | Updated: Jan 3, 2023, 6:23 am
Serbia's Novak Djokovic makes a backhand return to France's Constant Lestienne during their Round o...

Serbia's Novak Djokovic makes a backhand return to France's Constant Lestienne during their Round of 32 match at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)

(AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)

              Russia's Daniil Medvedev makes a backhand return to Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during their Round of 32 match at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)
            
              Serbia's Novak Djokovic makes a backhand return to France's Constant Lestienne during their Round of 32 match at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)
            
              Serbia's Novak Djokovic walks on to center court for his round of 32 match against France's Constant Lestienne at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)
            
              Serbia's Novak Djokovic walks on to center court for his round of 32 match against France's Constant Lestienne at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)
            
              Serbia's Novak Djokovic makes a forehand return to France's Constant Lestienne during their Round of 32 match at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)
            
              Serbia's Novak Djokovic makes a forehand return to France's Constant Lestienne during their Round of 32 match at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)
            
              Serbia's Novak Djokovic makes a backhand return to France's Constant Lestienne during their Round of 32 match at the Adelaide International Tennis tournament in Adelaide, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Kelly Barnes)

Novak Djokovic maintained his winning streak in singles matches in Australia, beating Constant Lestienne of France 6-3, 6-2 Tuesday in the first round of the Adelaide International.

It was the top-seeded Djokovic’s 30th straight singles victory on Australian soil in a streak that goes back to 2018.

It was Djokovic’s first singles match of the season after losing in doubles the previous day, and the win keeps him on course for a possible semifinal matchup in Adelaide against seventh-ranked Daniil Medvedev, who earlier beat Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 7-6 (6), 2-1 when Sonego was forced to retire with a right arm injury.

Djokovic, whose last loss in Australia was in the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open, will face either Jordan Thompson of Australia or Quentin Halys of France for a place in the quarterfinals.

He was again warmly received by the crowd in Adelaide, where he won this tournament at the age of 19.

Djokovic is playing in Australia for the first time since 2021, having missed last year’s Australian Open when he was deported because his unvaccinated status breached the country’s vaccination requirement for in-bound travelers. His ranking has dropped to No. 5 after also being forced to miss other tournaments, including the U.S. Open, last year.

“What you focus on, you become. If I focus on the negatives, that’s what I’ll attract, so I don’t want to do that. I don’t hold a grudge,” Djokovic said when asked about his return to Australia. “I am here to play tennis, to enjoy sports and spread good energy. To see the packed house for my first match was definitely a very pleasant surprise, and lots of support, lots of love.”

Djokovic’s arrival in Australia was much smoother this time around compared with last year.

“Well, I kind of was joking around with my team hoping that I can enter Australia this time, and that’s what happened,” he said. “It was really, I would say, normal. As with any other year coming into Australia except the last year, easy through the passport control, landed well.”

Earlier, Medvedev saved nine set points before taking the first set in a tiebreaker against the 45th-ranked Sonego.

“I didn’t know it was nine (set points),” Medvedev said. “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,” he added.

Sonego was playing Medvedev for the first time and often seemed to have the upper hand in the first set. He had six set points on Medvedev’s serve at 5-4 but Medvedev was able to rely on his big serve when he had to, saving all six.

Two games later, Sonego had three more set points at 0-40 on Medvedev’s but Medvedev rallied again, eventually taking the set after 80 minutes.

“To be honest 0-40 was a tough moment,” he said. “I didn’t count but I knew I saved a lot of set points.

Medvedev will meet Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic for a quarterfinal place.

___

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Djokovic beats Lestienne for winning start to 2023