Australian Open: Novak Djokovic survives scare against 18-year-old opponent to win thrilling first round match


It looked on paper to be an easy start to Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open campaign, but the 24-time grand slam champion was given a scare by Croatian youngster Dino Prizmic in a thrilling first round encounter on Sunday.

The Serb, bidding to make history by winning a record-breaking 25th grand slam title, eventually won the match in four sets – 6-2 6-7 6-3 6-4 – but he was pushed harder than many would have imagined beforehand.

“When you think about it, I’m double his age,” Djokovic joked during his post-match interview on court.

“Reality hits hard tonight, but I’m really trying to enjoy every moment on court. I struggled in many different moments tonight but it’s credit to him.”

Prizmic, 18, was making his grand slam main draw debut against the 10-time Australian Open champion after battling through qualifying at Melbourne Park last week.

The early exchanges had gone to script, with Djokovic racing into a one set lead inside the Rod Laver Arena.

But the 2023 French Open junior champion showed nerves of steel as he started to impose his game on arguably the greatest player of all time.

14 January 2024, Australia, Melbourne: Tennis: Grand Slam - Australian Open, men's singles, 1st round. Djokovic (Serbia) - Prizmic (Croatia). Dino Prizmic is in action.

The Croatian, with plenty of support from those watching in the stands, started to fight back and won a tense second-set tie break to equal the scores, before breaking Djokovic’s serve at the start of the third set.

Momentum appeared to be with the teenager as Djokovic struggled to find his game.

However, the effort it took to temporarily take the lead against the Serb looked to take its toll as Prizmic’s level began to drop as the match wore on.

Djokovic, who had picked up a minor injury ahead of this year’s Australian Open, began to click into gear and recovered to win the third set.

The 36-year-old then looked to be breezing to victory in the fourth set after going 4-0 up, before Prizmic once again upped his levels.

The teenager won the next three games to put pressure on Djokovic once again, but it was too little too late as the Serb held on for the win after just over four hours of action.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the third set against Croatia's Dino Prizmic during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024.

The pair shared an embrace at the net after match point, before Prizmic walked off the court to a standing applause which was led by Djokovic.

“He deserves every applause, every credit he got tonight,” Djokovic added.

“He’s an amazing player, so mature for his age, he handed himself on the court incredibly well. This is his moment, it could have easily been his match as well.

“He showed great mentality, resilience, he made me really run for my money tonight. That’s for sure.”

Djokovic will play either Alexei Popyrin or Marc Polmans in the second round on Wednesday.

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