'Flawless' Djokovic crushes Chardy in Australian Open warning

·3-min read
Serbia's Novak Djokovic wasted little time in beating Jeremy Chardy

Defending champion Novak Djokovic said he played "flawless and dominant" tennis to blast past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy Monday in an ominous start to his bid for an unprecedented ninth Australian Open title.

The Serbian world number one, who clinched his 17th Grand Slam in last year's gripping Melbourne final against Dominic Thiem, wasted little energy in the 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 romp in just 91 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

The writing was on the wall with Chardy failing to take a set off the Serb in 13 previous meetings.

"It felt great. I mean, I started the match really well, broke his serve and was pretty much a flawless match," he said, adding that he felt "relaxed and comfortable".

"Especially on my service games, I was very dominant. Just overall, I think every shot that I executed tonight was really good and on a high level.

"I'm very pleased with the way I opened up the Australian Open."

Djokovic, chasing an 18th Slam crown to close in on the 20 held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, has likened his relationship with the Australian Open to "a love affair".

And he clearly enjoyed himself, dishing up a masterclass for the socially-distanced fans in the stadium.

"It feels great, so great to see people back in the stadium," he said.

"I'm really glad to see a lot of people actually -- this is the most I've seen on a tennis court in 12 months."

"Sometimes we take these things (crowds) for granted, but very very grateful to see you all," he added.

- 'Sticking to the game plan' -

The 33-year-old broke Chardy in the opening game and was never troubled, racing through the set in 32 minutes, with the Frenchman winning just two points off the Serb's service game.

It was similar scenario in a lopsided second set, which only lasted 22 minutes, as Chardy struggled to cope with the ferocity of Djokovic's serving, which routinely clocked in at more than 200 kph (124 mph).

Chardy, who made the semi-finals of the warm-up Murray River Open tournament, surrendered meekly, with Djokovic winning the match with his ninth ace.

"Of course, you are expected to win most of the times as a top player and kind of ease your way through the first rounds," said Djokovic.

"But, you know, I don't see it that way, obviously. You still have to do your job on the court. So I was sticking to the game plan."

The Serb has won a record eight times in Melbourne, the scene of his maiden Grand Slam triumph in 2008, and is unbeaten on the famous blue courts since his shock defeat by South Korea's Hyeon Chung in the 2018 round of 16.

He next faces American Frances Tiafoe in a tricky side of the draw with 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka and former world number three Milos Raonic potential obstacles en route to the quarter-finals.

"It's the first time I will face him, he's definitely one of the up-and-coming American tennis players," Djokovic said of Tiafoe. "I'm looking forward to the next challenge."

mp/th