Tennis: Novak's back, no Djok about it

Serbia's former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic (above) admits he still has work to do despite showing good form by defeating Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne yesterday.
Serbia's former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic (above) admits he still has work to do despite showing good form by defeating Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Serb fit again after his injury, Wawrinka and Muguruza in doubt for Australian Open

MELBOURNE • Novak Djokovic made a resounding return yesterday after six months out with an elbow injury, declaring he felt "great" after beating world No. 5 Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion was in good form, and full of optimism, after his first competitive outing since losing a Wimbledon quarter-final match to Tomas Berdych last July.

"I feel great, I was eager to get onto the court," the 30-year-old Serb said.

"I had a great opponent, it was a test for me to see where I am, how the work we did pays off on court. It worked pretty well."

The former world No. 1, who will be chasing a record seventh Australian Open crown next week, had pulled out of a warm-up tournament in Abu Dhabi, raising concerns over whether he would be fit enough to play at Melbourne Park.

"There was a doubt, especially after I pulled out of the first week of the year," he admitted.

"I personally didn't know what's going to happen. We did some treatment and obviously gave it a lot of thought. Luckily I'm here and so I'm hoping in the next four, five days everything will go well and I'll be ready for the Open."

While pleased with his progress, Djokovic - who has dropped to 14th in the world rankings - admitted he still had work to do ahead of the opening Grand Slam of the year.

"I don't want to be over-confident, but I'm very, very happy with how it went today," he added.

"I don't say I'm at 100 per cent, I can only say that when I get the feel of a tournament.

"Ideally I would have had another tournament before the start of the Open, but it was not meant to be.

"I'll take whatever I can - one or two matches here will be good preparation."

Following his victory over Thiem, Djokovic lost 6-10 to Lleyton Hewitt - who came out of retirement to play doubles at the Australian Open - in the first round of the eight-man Tie Break Tens event.

Each match comprised solely super tie-breaks to 10 points.

Berdych won the exhibition tournament after he beat Rafael Nadal 10-5 in the final to take home the US$250,000 (S$333,000) prize.

World No. 1 Nadal, who lost 4-6, 5-7 to Richard Gasquet at the Kooyong Classic on Tuesday, showed little signs of the knee injury which hampered the end of his 2017 season.

Stan Wawrinka, meanwhile, withdrew from the Tie Break Tens, putting his hopes of playing in the Australian Open in doubt.

The Swiss, like Nadal, was due to make his comeback from a knee injury.

Garbine Muguruza's preparations for the Grand Slam were also thrown into disarray when the world No. 3 pulled out of the Sydney International with a thigh injury yesterday.

Hours after battling past Kiki Bertens 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) to advance to the quarter-finals, the 24-year-old Spanish top seed withdrew with a right-thigh injury.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline 'Novak's back, no Djok about it'. Print Edition | Subscribe