Novak Djokovic storms into Australian Open second round
It took just four games for defending champion Novak Djokovic to brush off any early-season rust and cruise into the second round of the Australian Open today.
The world number one, playing his first ranking event of the season, looked sluggish early on in his encounter with Italian Paolo Lorenzi, dropping his second service game to trail 2-1.
But he broke back immediately to level it at 2-2 and then upped the tempo to run through the next 16 games and secure an emphatic 6-2 6-0 6-0 victory.
"It took me a couple of games to find my rhythm but I think I played well after the first set," he said.
His Italian opponent posed few questions but the searing heat in Melbourne did provide Djokovic with the odd headache.
He said: "I just need a bit more time to get used to them (the conditions) because the last 10 days or so since I arrived in Melbourne it was quite cold and very windy.
"Today was around 35 degrees so it took a bit of time to get used to the heat. Still I am quite happy with how I'm handling it physically."
Djokovic used the lack of genuine competition to experiment, making regular excursions to the net.
"When you're 3-, 4-0 up why not try some other things, some things that are not usual characteristics of your game," he said.
"I am definitely working on my net game and am trying to approach the short balls as much as I can and take my chances."
Andy Murray and David Ferrer also advanced, albeit in slightly different circumstances.
Fourth seed Murray dropped the first set against American teenager Ryan Harrison before hitting back to win 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-2 while Ferrer, seeded five, dropped just seven games in a straight-sets win over Portuguese Rui Machado.
Harrison came out swinging and posed the Scot all sorts of problems before Murray's know-how eventually prevailed.
The 24-year-old, a finalist in each of the last two years here, said: "I remember when I was in that position when I was younger and there was no pressure on me. He came out and played some great tennis and I really had to dig in.
"He is one of the up-and-coming guys and I was expecting a tough match and that's what I got.
"I started to play better towards the end of the match, I had a few nerves at the start."
Gael Monfils, who is seeded to meet Murray in round four, beat Australian wild card Marinko Matosevic 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 6-3 and his French compatriot Richard Gasquet overcame Italy's Andreas Seppi 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-1.
There were also wins for ninth seed Janko Tipsarevic, sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic, the 23rd seed tipped by many as an outsider for the title.
In the night session Lleyton Hewitt rolled back the years to edge out German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in a titanic struggle.
The match seemed to be going all the way when Hewitt trailed 5-1 in the fourth but he staged a wonderful comeback to thrill the home crowd and move through 7-5 6-4 3-6 7-5 in three hours and 58 minutes.
"I hung in there and kept making him play as he is one of the young guys on tour and he got a little tight serving for the set twice," he said.
"I just tried to tried to put pressure on his second serve and managed to turn it around."
Next up for Hewitt is a clash with fellow former world number one Andy Roddick, who beat Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3 6-4 6-1.
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