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Djokovic comes through Prizmic test in Melbourne opener

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 14, 2024 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his first round match against Croatia's Dino Prizmic REUTERS/Edgar Su
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 14, 2024 Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his first round match against Croatia's Dino Prizmic REUTERS/Edgar Su
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MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic was dragged into a dogfight by talented teenager Dino Prizmic and had to dig deep to open his Australian Open title defence with a 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4 victory in the first round on Sunday.


At a shade over four hours, it was Djokovic's longest first-round match at a major and he heaped praise on the Croatian qualifier for his performance on his Grand Slam debut.


"He deserved all the applause and all the credit he got tonight, he's an amazing player, so mature ... he really gave me a run for my money," Djokovic said.


"It was an amazing performance for a teenager who never had the experience of playing on such a big stage.


"I started well for a 36-year-old, jeez, if you think about it I'm double his age. I had some good moments (but) physically I'm still finding myself on the court."


The Serbian, who played his first Australian Open a few months before the Croatian qualifier was born in 2005, initially looked fully in control of the contest on the Rod Laver Arena court where he has won 10 of his 24 Grand Slam titles.


Prizmic had already shown glimpses of the weapons he possesses and broke the top seed with a brilliant crosscourt winner early in the second set, forcing Djokovic to raise his game to break straight back.


The 18-year-old world number 178, who need a medical timeout to get some strapping on his thigh early in the match, was a man transformed, however, and kept up his level to even up the contest in the tiebreak.


That merely set the tone for an enthralling third set in which Djokovic was put under intense pressure by his athletic opponent, making 20 unforced errors and facing six break points.


Djokovic broke Prizmic at the start but the teenager kept ripping huge forehands and stayed with the world number one in several rallies to put the match back on serve before breaking again for a 3-2 lead after a 15-minute battle of a game. -- Reuters


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