Novak Djokovic overjoyed after ‘welcome I could only wish for’ in successful singles return

Novak Djokovic has kick-started his Australian summer in the best possible way with a straight-sets win over France’s Constant Lestienne.

Taking just one hour and 14 minutes, Djokovic eased past the world No.65, to win 6-3, 6-2 in his first-round match-up at the Adelaide International.

Speaking post-match, Djokovic acknowledged the large crowd gathered around Centre Court which showered him with cheers throughout the contest.

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“First of all, I have to say I’m glad to be back in Australia. Thank you all for coming out today,” he said.

“Thank you for giving me the welcome that I could only wish for.”

Securing his first singles win of the 2023 season, Djokovic was pleased with his performance.

“For my first match, I can’t complain. I played very well,” he said.

“I thought the first six games were very competitive and I’ve never faced [Lestienne] before today’s match. He’s a counter-puncher, he doesn’t make too many mistakes and he kind of absorbs the pace from his opponent, with kind of a tricky serve – you know hits his spots.

“Once I made that break at 3-2 in the first set, I felt like I stepped it up probably one or two levels and played really good tennis for the rest of the match.”

Djokovic first won the Adelaide International in 2007 – five years into his professional career – before going on to claim his first major at Melbourne Park the following year when he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open final.

“I really haven’t been in Adelaide properly since 2007,” he said about playing in South Australia.

“My coach is here from 2007. He’s here (today), he was born in Adelaide and he’s a local guy. So, nice to have him here and relive those memories you know from now 15-16 years ago.”

Now with nine Australian Open titles in total, Djokovic reflected on the success he has been able to capture Down Under and his relationship with the country.

“I mean if I have to pick one country where I had the most success – in all which treated me in the best way in terms of tennis,” he said.

“I won my first slam in 2008. I mean, I’ve had some epic matches – if I have to pick one would probably be the final against Nadal in 2012 that went almost six hours.

“Over the years Australia has been a place where I have played my best tennis without a doubt, and I really always look forward to coming here again.

“Even (after) the circumstances last year were as they were, and it wasn’t easy for anybody, but I’m just happy to be here and focus on tennis and enjoy my time with you guys.

Djokovic will face another Frenchman – Quentin Halys – in the second round.

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