Dino Prizmic was filled with awe as he stood by the entrance of Rod Laver Arena, preparing for his first grand slam match. He couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the presence of Novak Djokovic standing right behind him. As they both looked ahead, they could see a display of boards listing the names and years of each previous Australian Open champion. Djokovic’s board displayed a total of 10 different years.
Despite being a teenager from Croatia, the player fearlessly faced off against the greatest player of all time, forcing Djokovic to step up his game in order to make it through. After a four-hour match, his longest first-round match in 14 years, Djokovic emerged victorious with a 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 win.
At the start of the match, Djokovic displayed a strong determination to dominate and put pressure on his inexperienced opponent. He took more risks with his forehand, aiming for the lines instead of his usual safe shots. This aggressive approach paid off as he easily won the first set without much difficulty.
Prizmic, who is only 18 years old, has been recognized for his talent for quite some time. Last year, he became the French Open boys’ champion. Even as he lost the first set, he remained calm and did not panic. Despite having to call the trainer multiple times in the second set due to a problem with his right thigh, Prizmic continued to showcase his skills until the very end.
He displayed impressive movement on the hard court, maneuvering with ease on both legs. He tirelessly retrieved numerous balls and matched Djokovic’s physical prowess, ultimately emerging victorious in several grueling rallies. Prizmic’s powerful forehand dominated the court, consistently breaking down Djokovic’s defense. He complemented his strong shots with dependable serving, a mature level of patience, and a willingness to end points at the net.
Prizmic’s strong play caused Djokovic to make unexpected mistakes, leading to a close tiebreak in the second set. Despite the pressure, Prizmic stayed composed and was able to even the score. He continued to apply pressure in the third set and eventually broke Djokovic’s serve to take a 3-2 lead.
As Djokovic appeared to be under threat, he managed to elevate his performance once more. The 36-year-old’s ability to return the ball improved, enabling him to quickly regain the advantage, and he also served effectively in crucial moments. Despite being behind in the game, Djokovic went on a streak of eight consecutive wins, giving him a 4-0 lead in the fourth set.
However, Prizmic continued to put up a fight until the very end. He managed to regain one of Djokovic’s breaks, saved three match points while serving at 3-5, and ultimately forced Djokovic to finish the match with a solid service game. As they embraced at the net, Djokovic praised his younger opponent. Then, as the audience erupted in cheers for the winner, Djokovic gestured for them to also applaud Prizmic as he left Rod Laver Arena.
Djokovic had an unusual beginning to his season. He had already faced challenges with a wrist injury and lost to Alex de Minaur. However, despite this, Djokovic had confidently stated that he was feeling fine and played without showing any signs of discomfort.
Following another successful season from Djokovic, the primary concern among the men’s draw is whether any player is prepared to defeat him at the crucial tournament for his career. Despite facing challenges and struggling at times, Djokovic has consistently found a way to come out on top. Many times throughout his career, these tough matches have only made him more resilient. As he goes for his 11th Australian Open title, Djokovic will go up against the winner of the all-Australian first-round match between Alexei Popyrin and Marc Polmans on Monday.
Despite the day session at the stadium ending at 4:25pm, Djokovic did not leave the playing arena until 11:30pm due to the two and a half hour break between sessions. One reason Tennis Australia decided to start the Australian Open on a Sunday was to avoid late-night matches. Fortunately, Aryna Sabalenka’s dominant performance against German qualifier Ella Seidel with a score of 6-0, 6-1 helped keep the opening day to a reasonable finishing time.
It has been six years since Caroline Wozniacki won her first grand slam title at the 2018 Australian Open. She also retired for the first time in 2020 at the same event. In this year’s Australian Open, Wozniacki advanced to the second round after her opponent, Magda Linette, who was seeded 20th and a semi-finalist in the previous year, retired due to injury while Wozniacki was leading 6-2, 2-0.
“I entered this tournament with a clear understanding of my current standing and areas for improvement. It’s a unique experience, but I also feel that I have nothing to risk and everything to gain,” stated Wozniacki.
This year’s women’s competition has seen many comebacks, but not all of them have been due to injuries or maternity leave. Amanda Anisimova, who made it to the semi-finals of the 2019 French Open at just 17 years old, took a break from tennis in April of last year to focus on her mental well-being. After nine months, the 22-year-old returned to the grand slam stage and won her match against the 13th seed, Liudmila Samsonova, with a score of 6-3 6-4.