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Djokovic marks Australian Open return with win as Murray defeats Berrettini

On a day of bans on Russian flags and weather-induced disruption, two of the sport’s biggest names belatedly brought the focus back on tennis in Melbourne.

A heavy title favourite, the 35-year-old Novak Djokovic was back on Tuesday after his deportation last year because of his stance on Covid-19 vaccines.

If the Serb was worried about how he might be received by the Melbourne Park crowd, he needn’t have been — the nine-time Australian Open champion walked out to loud cheers.

Against the backdrop of chants of “Nole”, Djokovic sent Spain’s 75th-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena packing at Rod Laver Arena, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0, to surge into round two.

“Thank you for giving me such a welcoming reception that I could only dream of,” said Djokovic, who is chasing a record-equalling 22nd major title.

“I feel really happy that I’m back here in Australia and on the court where I have had the biggest success in my career.”

READ MORE: Nadal wins first round at Australian Open as he chases history 

Murray, Berrettini epic five-set

Prior to that, the day had belonged to another 35-year-old in Murray — and Melbourne’s famously fickle weather.

The Briton saved match point to defeat Italy’s 13th seed Berrettini 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (10/6) in 4 hours 49 minutes at Rod Laver Arena, where the roof was closed because of the extreme heat.

“I will be feeling this evening and tomorrow,” the former world number one, who plays with a metal hip after career-saving surgery, said. “But right now unbelievably happy and proud of myself.”

Also in the men’s draw, Russia’s fifth seed Andrey Rublev ended the tournament of 2020 finalist Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) temperatures.

Former US Open champion Thiem was outplayed as he continued his return from a wrist injury that kept him off the court for nine months across the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Meanwhile, The women’s draw threw up no real shocks.

Tunisia’s second seed Ons Jabeur, runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, was far from her fluent best but eventually defeated Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.

The shaky Jabeur won the first set on a tiebreak, lost the second 6- 4, then finally found her rhythm to clinch the decider 6-1.

Caroline Garcia and Aryna Sabalenka — fourth and fifth seeds respectively — had it easier as they swept into the second round.

READ MORE: History as Chinese man wins for first time at Australian Open

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