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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic wins longest Grand Slam first round match of his career

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Novak Djokovic passed his toughest Australian Open first round test since the first of his record 10 men’s singles titles at the event.

Djokovic, 36, outlasted 178th-ranked, 18-year-old Croat Dino Prizmic 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 to begin his bid for a record-breaking 25th Grand Slam singles title.

“Obviously, I struggled in many, many different moments tonight, but it was credit to him due to his incredible gameplan,” said Djokovic, who had 40 winners to 49 unforced errors. “He just had an answer for everything. He was very physical.”

Djokovic earned his 29th consecutive Australian Open match victory, but he dropped a set in the first round for just the second time in the last 17 years.


Prizmic further pushed Djokovic in the third set, breaking serve in a 17-minute game to go up 3-2, but Djokovic won the next eight games.

Prizmic had a chance to become the first man to win two sets off Djokovic in the first round of a major since the 2010 U.S. Open (Viktor Troicki) and the first to do it at the Australian Open since American Paul Goldstein in 2006. Djokovic was 18 then, half a lifetime ago.

At four hours, one minute, it was Djokovic’s longest Grand Slam first round match ever, according to Tennis Abstract. Djokovic had won his previous 48 Grand Slam first round matches in less than three hours.

Prizmic, the 2023 French Open junior champion, was making his Grand Slam main draw debut.

“He deserved every applause, every credit that he got tonight,” Djokovic said. “He’s amazing player, I must say, so mature for his age. ... This is his moment, honestly. It could have easily been his match as well.”

Djokovic next plays an Australian -- 43rd-ranked Alexei Popyrin or No. 156 Marc Polmans.

He could play five-time Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray in the third round and American Ben Shelton in the fourth round. Last September, Djokovic swept Shelton in the semifinals at the U.S. Open en route to tying Australian Margaret Court for the most major singles titles in history.

Also Sunday, Taylor Fritz, the highest-seeded American man at No. 12, needed five sets and ankle treatment to reach the second round.

Another American, Amanda Anisimova, took out No. 13 Liudmila Samsonova of Russia in Anisimova’s first Slam match since taking a mental health break last May and returning to competition this month. Anisimova reached the 2019 French Open semifinals at age 17.

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, the 2018 Australian Open champion, advanced in her first match in Melbourne since ending a three-and-half-year retirement last summer.

Wozniacki, 33, was up 6-2, 2-0 on No. 20 Magda Linette of Poland when Linette, a 2023 Australian Open semifinalist, retired due to injury.

The Australian Open continues Monday (Sunday night in the U.S.) with U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka in action. Osaka, a four-time major winner, is playing her first Slam since returning from childbirth.