NOVAK Djokovic needed four sets to beat world No. 178 Dino Prizmic in the first round of the 2024 Australian Open. Djokovic was not at his best and had to recover from a break down in the third set as he was given a stern test. Djokovic eventually came through to continue his winning run at the Australian Open. He will face Alexei Popyrin or Marc Polmans in the second round.
Novak Djokovic was given a firm test as he started his bid for an 11th Australian Open title with a battling four-set win over 18-year-old qualifier Dino Prizmic.
Djokovic was labelled ahead of the match as “almost impossible to beat” by Nick Kyrgios, but his title rivals in Melbourne might have been encouraged to see him pushed so hard by world No. 178 Prizmic.
The 2023 junior French Open champion matched Djokovic from the back of the court for much of the first-round contest as he threatened to pull off a huge shock.
But the world No. 1 raised his level at the end of a tight 71-minute third set and then pulled away to win 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4.
At four hours and one minute, it was the longest first-round Grand Slam match of Djokovic’s career.
Djokovic will next face either Alexei Popyrin or another Australian, Marc Polmans.
It appeared early on like it might be a routine opening match for Djokovic, who had downplayed concerns over a wrist injury ahead of the tournament.
Not only did the defending champion break in the first game, but Prizmic then needed a medical timeout as he looked to have a thigh issue.
Djokovic dropped just three points behind his serve as he took the first set with another break.
But Prizmic quickly put the opening set behind him and played a brilliant game to break for a 3-1 lead in the second.
The lead didn’t last long as Djokovic broke straight back, putting his finger to his ear and smiling at the crowd reaction after Prizmic mishit a forehand out.
Djokovic levelled in the next game and the set then stayed on serve until a tie-breaker.
Djokovic had an excellent record in tie-breakers in 2023 but his first at a Grand Slam this season was poor as several errors saw Prizmic move 6-2 ahead.
The world No. 1 fought back to 5-6, but then dragged a forehand wide to hand Prizmic the set.
Djokovic continued to misfire at the start of the second set but escaped his first service game after being pushed to deuce.
He then broke the next game to lead 2-0, but Prizmic continued to stick with Djokovic and broke straight back after winning a 25-shot rally.
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A 16-minute fourth game saw seven deuces before Djokovic netted to hand Prizmic another break.
Djokovic responded to level at 3-3 but was then again made to work hard on serve, holding from 15-40 with a smash followed by an ace down the middle.
Prizmic looked like putting the pressure straight back on Djokovic as he moved 30-0 ahead in the next game, but the world No. 1 won four points in a row to move 5-3 ahead.
With a chance to serve out the set, Djokovic recovered from 0-30 down to clinch it, with the shouts and fist pumps as he walked back to his chair illustrating what a battle it had been.
Djokovic did not relent from there, racing into a 4-0 lead to take control of the fourth set.
Although Prizmic got one break back, and saved four match points to get to 5-4, Djokovic eventually closed out a hard-fought victory.