With his tournament preparation limited due to a left hamstring injury, which he sustained during his title run at the Adelaide International 1 two weeks ago, Djokovic admitted that he had some concerns ahead of his match against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, whom he defeated 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
“I was kind of testing my leg a little bit,” Djokovic said after his match, in which he played with his left hamstring taped. “At the beginning I was a bit tight, mentally as well, to protect something that was bothering me for the last 10 days. So it took me a little bit of time to really get into the match and start moving more freely.
“The great sign was that the longer the match went, the better I felt, the better I moved. It’s not ideal, but it’s getting there. Today was a really good test. Haven’t had too much training in the last few days.”
Playing his first match at Melbourne Park in two years, Djokovic received a warm ovation from the Rod Laver crowd. He was also pleased to have his family in attendance, including his parents, who are making their first trip to Melbourne in 15 years.
“They’ve come to watch me in Paris, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open. The Australian Open has been a bit of a trip for my parents,” Djokovic said. “It’s really not around the corner from Serbia. Australia is a pretty long way.
“I’m really glad to have them here. The only time they were here was back in 2008 (when Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title). We have some great memories and considerations about the time that they spent here together now 15 years ago. Hopefully they can stay all the way, I can stay all the way, and we can have another great celebration.”
Should Djokovic collect a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown, he would tie Rafael Nadal at 22 major titles and climb to World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Djokovic is riding an 11-match winning streak, which includes titles at the Nitto ATP Finals at the end of last season and the Adelaide International 1 crown in the first week of 2023.
Currently No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Djokovic hasn’t tasted defeat in Melbourne since 2018, when South Korean Hyeon Chung upset him in the fourth round.
Djokovic is bidding to win his 93rd Tour-level title and claim sole ownership of fourth place in the Open Era for most Tour-level titles. Only Jimmy Connors (109 Tour-level titles), Roger Federer (103) and Ivan Lendl (95) have won more. [Nadal and Djokovic both have 92 titles.] But the Serbian is trying not to get distracted by the bigger picture.
Nadal, Tsitsipas, Medvedev Eye Third-Round On Australian Open Day 3
“I think it’s important to get as close as possible to the balance between using the possibilities and achievements that are out there as a motivational factor, as a goal-setting type of motivation,” Djokovic said. “That will drive you as a guiding star, but at the same time balance it with an everyday task that you have to accomplish in order to stay in the present moment, which is when you are able to perform your best.
“I’ve been in situations before where I’ve played for some really big historic things, and I’ve been blessed to have I would say more success than failures in those particular situations. I know how to behave, I know how to handle it. Let’s see how far I can go.”
Djokovic will next meet either French qualifier Enzo Couacaud or Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the second round. The Serbian defeated Dellien at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but it would be a first encounter with the 27-year-old Couacaud.