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Novak Djokovic survives first-round scare against teen Dino Prizmic

Novak Djokovic speaks after his epic AO opener

Source: Australian Open

Fearless teenager Dino Prizmic has given Novak Djokovic – and Australian Open boss Craig Tiley – a fright before the defending champion scrambled to a first-round win.

Djokovic’s match on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night, with the tournament start brought forward a day, was supposed to be a stroll for the super Serb, gunning for his 11th Open title.

But 18-year-old qualifier Prizmic, playing in his first grand slam, didn’t read the script and had the world No.1 in trouble before he managed a 6-2 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 6-4 victory after four hours.

Already missing injured Spanish giant Rafael Nadal and local crowd puller Nick Kyrgios, Tiley would have been sweating on the possibility of an early Djokovic exit.

At double his opponent’s age, Djokovic was full of praise for Prizmic, impressed by his maturity in his maiden major.

“Just amazing performance for someone that is 18 years old, had never had an experience of playing on a big stage,” Djokovic said.

“He deserved every applause, every credit that he got tonight. He’s amazing player, I must say, so mature for his age.

“He handled himself on the court incredibly well. This is his moment, honestly. It could have easily been his match as well.

“He made me really run for my money, for sure.”

The first set went to plan with only a medical timeout for the Croatian world No.178 for treatment on his thigh stalling the march of the top seed.

But Djokovic, who made his grand slam debut nearly seven months before Prizmic was born, was rattled in the second, making a number of uncustomary errors.

In the tiebreak, the youngster had four set points with Djokovic saving three before sending a ball wide for Prizmic to level at a set apiece.

The pair traded breaks in the third but at 3-3, the 36-year-old, who battled a wrist injury leading into the tournament, started to assert his dominance.

Playing his first competitive match since his United Cup quarter-final loss to Alex de Minaur, which was his first defeat in Australia since 2018, Djokovic won the next seven straight games.

Down two breaks at 0-4, Prizmic refused to go away and broke the 24-time grand slam champion and then consolidated to give himself a sniff.

He saved five match points before a steely Djokovic wrapped up the win, which was the longest first-round grand slam match of his storied career.

Djokovic admitted he wasn’t physically at his best.

“I haven’t played here in a year and it’s been a very short off-season, so physically I’m still finding myself out there on the court,” he said.

“But now I have a couple of days to my next match, so hopefully I will be at my best for the next.”

-AAP
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