Djokovic gets down to business, then jokes around

Updated: 28 January 2008 14:40 IST

Novak Djokovic gives a different kind of impression on the court.


Novak Djokovic gives a different kind of impression on the court.

Most players have been asked for their impression of the new, blue Plexicushion courts at Melbourne Park.

After Djokovic beat Benjamin Becker 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (5) on Tuesday in his first-round match at the AustralianOpen, the television commentator implored Djokovic to do one of his impressions of another player - specifically Maria Sharapova - that have generated huge attention on YouTube.

At first, he resisted - ''I don't want to offend anybody,'' he said.

But he soon gave in and did a reasonable imitation, right down to the Russian player's tendency to brush strands of her long blonde hair back over her ears as she prepares to serve.

The crowd gave him a standing ovation, and Djokovic later assured a news conference that Sharapova ''doesn't mind'' the impersonations.

''She's OK with it,'' he said.

There was proof at the US Open, when Sharapova showed up to cheer for Djokovic in the final a few days after he imitated her at that tournament.

Third-ranked Djokovic raced through the first set in just 22 minutes, generating sympathy for underdog Becker, who couldn't seem to find anything that worked and won only three points on his serve.

About the only pain that Djokovic suffered early was self-inflicted. He had to call for the trainer after the fifth game to treat a small cut on his left knee from hitting himself with his racket.

Becker, looking increasingly disconsolate and frustrated, got a loud ovation when he held to win his first game. But Djokovic ran off the last four games of the second set.

The third set turned into a struggle.

''I lost my momentum,'' Djokovic said. ''I almost lost that third set, then who knows what would happen?''

Becker broke for the first and only time in the first game at love on a rash of Djokovic errors. Djokovic leveled the set at 2 - all when Becker double-faulted on break point.

Becker won the first three points of the tiebreaker. He got an ace on a challenge of a line call to make it 5-5, but sent two forehands wide to finish the match.

The loss continued a stretch of five consecutive first-round exits at Grand Slams for Becker since his upset over Andre Agassi in the fourth round at the 2006 U.S. Open - the last match of Agassi's career.

It was another German by the same surname who Djokovic emulated last year when he became the first player since Boris Becker in 1994 to beat all of the Top 3 players at the same tournament.

He beat Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick en route to the title in Montreal in a run that helped him supplant Roddick at Number 3.

The 20-year-old Serbian found himself on the receiving end when David Nalbandian repeated the 1-2-3 sequence of wins at Madrid two months later.

Nalbandian, who surged from Number 25 to Number 9 with his wins over Federer and Nadal at consecutive tournaments to win the Madrid and Paris titles, recovered from back spasms that forced him out of the Kooyong exhibition last week to beat Australian Robert Smeets 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (3).

Former US Open and Wimbledon winner Lleyton Hewitt started his 12th bid to become the first homegrown winner of the national championship since 1976 with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Steve Darcis of Belgium.

He lost the 2005 final at Melbourne Park to Marat Safin.

Marcos Baghdatis, who lost the 2006 final to Roger Federer, beat 2002 champion Thomas Johansson 7-6 (0), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and Amer Delic beat fellow American Robert Kendrick 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

Fifth-seeded David Ferrer beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 and Dutch player Robin Haase ousted Number 17 Ivan Ljubicic 6-7 (2) 6-3, 6-0, 7-6, (1).

Among the men advancing were Number 21 Juan Monaco of Argentina and Number 25 Fernando Verdasco of Spain and South Korea's Lee Hyung-taik, who beat Australian hope Chris Guccione 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-4.

Second-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia beat Nathalie Dechy of France 6-3, 6-1 to move into the second round in the women's draw.

Another Russian, Number 6-seeded Anna Chakvetadze, only played six points before advancing to the second round when Germany's Andrea Petkovic retired with a leg injury.

Also progressing were: Number 9 Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3, 7-5 over Vania King of the United States; Number 21 Alona Bondarenko; Number 27 Maria Kirilenko, who beat American Meilen Tu 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; Number 31 Sania Mirza of India, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Asian wild-card entry Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan; and Japan's Akiko Morigami, who beat Michaella Krajicek 6-2, 6-2.

Three of the seeded women went out, with Number 16 Dinara Safina losing to Sahine Lisicki, Number 20 Agnes Svavay of Hungary losing to Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, and Number 22 Lucie Safarova gonig down to Colombia's Catalina CastaNumber.

Top-ranked Roger Federer, aiming for a third consecutive Australian title and claiming to be 100 percent recovered from a stomach virus that interrupted his preparation, had a night match scheduled against Diego Hartfield of Argentina.

Venus Williams was to play China's Yan Zi on Rod Laver Arena in the first night match.

Topics : Tennis Novak Djokovic
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