Match Report

Djokovic fends off Prizmic press in Melbourne opener

10-time champion given stern four-set test by #NextGenATP Croatian
January 14, 2024
Novak Djokovic celebrates during his first-round clash against Dino Prizmic on Sunday in Melbourne.
William West/AFP via Getty Images
Novak Djokovic celebrates during his first-round clash against Dino Prizmic on Sunday in Melbourne. By ATP Staff

A generational clash opened the night-session on the Australian Open’s historic opening Sunday, and Novak Djokovic and Dino Prizmic’s first-round meeting did not disappoint.

Djokovic ultimately made a winning start to his bid for a record-extending 11th Australian Open title with a 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 triumph against Prizmic, but not before the #NextGenATP Croatian had announced himself on the Grand Slam stage in style.

Having come through qualifying to seal his maiden main-draw appearance at a major, Prizmic competed superbly with the 24-time major winner, particularly in the second and third sets of a four-hour, one-minute encounter, the longest first-round match of the World No. 1's career. The 18-year-old Prizmic, who is No. 178 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, went toe-to-toe with the Serbian great from the baseline and at one stage led 3-2 with a break in the third set.

In trademark fashion, however, Djokovic dialled in from there to win the next eight games and all-but-extinguish his young opponent’s hopes of causing a stunning upset. The Serbian produced his best tennis of the match in the latter stages to overrun a tiring Prizmic, although the Croatian nonetheless saved six match points before Djokovic finally clinched victory.

“He deserved every applause, every credit that he got tonight,” said Djokovic after Prizmic left the court to a standing ovation from the Melbourne crowd. “He’s an amazing player, so mature for his age and he handled himself on the court incredibly well.

“This is his moment, honestly. It could easily have been his match as well. He was a break up in the third, he fought even though he was 0-4 and a break point down [in the fourth set]. He fought. He showed great mentality and resilience. He really made me run for my money tonight.”

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Djokovic has now won his past 29 matches at the Australian Open, where he holds a 90-8 record overall. The 36-year-old’s next test in Melbourne will be a second-round meeting with a home favourite — either Alexei Popyrin or wild card Marc Polmans.

“I started off very well… I’m really trying to enjoy every moment on the court,” said Djokovic. “Obviously I struggled at many different moments tonight, but credit to him. Due to his incredible gameplan, he just had an answer for everything. He was very physical.

“I had good moments. Some moments wish I could have played better and maybe more aggressive, but I haven’t played here in a year, and it was a very short off-season, so physically I’m still finding myself out there on the court. Now I have a couple of days until my next match, so hopefully I’ll be at my best for my next match.”

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Djokovic, who made his Australian Open main-draw debut in 2005, nearly seven months before Prizmic was born, appeared in complete control after winning the first set. His 18-year-old opponent also struggled physically early on, and twice received treatment from the physio on his left upper leg in the opening set.

From there, however, Prizmic appeared to settle and began to assert himself against his more-experienced opponent. Although he let slip a 3-1 lead in the second set, the Croatian later opened a 6/2 lead in the tie-break and held firm to convert his fourth set point to alter the trajectory of the match.

After breaking Djokovic’s serve twice in a row to rally from 0-2 to 3-2 in the third set, however, Prizmic was unable to maintain his charge. The 98-time tour-level champion Djokovic upped his game and was largely comfortable, despite his late struggles to convert his match points, as he wrapped a victory in which he struck 40 winners, including nine aces.

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