Novak Djokovic makes strong start to Australian Open campaign, addresses ATP player council speculation

 foxsports.com.au  01/15/2019 12:42:00 

Chasing a record seventh title at Melbourne Park, a pumped-up Djokovic powered to an impressive 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over American qualifier Mitchell Krueger on Rod Laver Arena.

The win sets up a mouth-watering second round match-up with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whom Djokovic beat in the 2008 final in Melbourne to claim his first grand slam.

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Djoker breezes past Texan

Djoker breezes past Texan

1:27

Djokovic has been in the headlines well before hitting the court in Melbourne, amid reports the players council he chairs had voted to oust ATP chief executive Chris Kermode — a move that could rock the men’s tour.

There was further controversy on Monday when Rafael Nadal seemed bothered be the fact he had not been consulted on the issue but the world No.1 attempted to hose down the drama after his round one victory.

“First of all, we have to clear up the decision is not made, so... The decision has not been made and we still have time,” Djokovic said.

“And the representatives on the council, player board representatives, will talk with Roger, Rafa, anybody who is interested to have a discussion about this.

“Now, what is very important for everybody to understand is that Rafa has always been involved, no question about it.

“Whether he was part of the political structure, council or not, he always tries to contribute to the game. And I need to credit him for that.”

1st round cakewalk for Serena

1st round cakewalk for Serena

0:53

Djokovic said “not many players want to be involved” in council issues traditionally but that was changing and communication had improved in recent years.

He indicated he would speak to Nadal and Roger Federer further on the issue and added the current debate was “not just about the president. It’s about the future of the sport.”

“No one is getting paid for this in the council. We are all doing it because we care about the sport, we care about each other. That’s all it is.”

Djokovic — firm favourite to win the title in Melbourne — had reached the Australian Open second round for 13 consecutive years and that streak was never threatened by Krueger, who was making his debut at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic, appearing in his 300th Grand Slam match, did drop his second service game to go 1-2 behind in the first set but broke back immediately and went on to record his 259th match win in a major against a gritty but outclassed opponent.

Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating United States' Mitchell Krueger.
Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating United States' Mitchell Krueger.Source: AP

“Playing him for the first time I didn’t know what to expect,” said the Serbian top seed.

“He was very competitive and I had to work hard. I enjoyed it, hope you did too,” he said.

Djokovic closed out last season magnificently, making an astonishing climb back from outside the world’s top 20 in June, winning Wimbledon and the US Open on the way to reclaiming the number one ranking in November.

It was a stark contrast to the way he exited Melbourne a year ago at the hands of South Korea’s Chung Hyeon in the last 16.

He then struggled as elbow surgery was followed by a string of poor results. Djokovic will take a trip down memory lane next when he plays old foe Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round.

Frenchman Tsonga was on the losing side in the 2008 Australian Open final as Djokovic won his first of 14 Grand Slams.

“I have great respect for Jo,” said Djokovic. “We will face each other again on this great court, hopefully. I am looking forward to it.”

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