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Djokovic Defeats Mathieu To Begin Title Defence; Verdasco Rallies

Melbourne, Australia

Verdasco© Getty ImagesFernando Verdasco beat David Goffin in five sets.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic opened his Australian Open title defence on Monday afternoon in Melbourne, defeating Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-4, 7-5.

Making his season debut, Djokovic did not lose serve, winning 80 percent of his service points. He broke the Frenchman four times to advance in one hour and 42 minutes. He improved his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Mathieu to a 5-1 mark.

"It was a good performance for a first round," said Djokovic. "I felt I was in control of the match in the opening two sets. It was tough to break [in the third set]. But in the end, that 11th game, I made some good shots, good points, managed to go through in straight sets."

The 25-year-old Serbian is aiming to become the first male in the Open Era to win three straight Australian Open crowns. He successfully retained the trophy last year by winning back-to-back thrillers over Andy Murray in the semi-finals and Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam final on record.

In the second round, Djokovic faces Ryan Harrison. The American overcame Santiago Giraldo 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to win his first match in four attempts at Melbourne Park. Harrison hit 10 aces and won nine more total points than the Colombian to move through in two hours and 37 minutes. Harrison is looking to reach the third round at a major tournament for the first time.

Looking ahead to the Harrison clash, Djokovic said, "He has a big serve which he likes to use and a big forehand. I've played him a few times before on different surfaces. I know what it takes to win that match."

Fernando Verdasco rallied past David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and 22 minutes to book his place in the second round. The 22nd-seeded Verdasco hit 45 winners to 58 unforced errors, but saved eight of the nine break points in the final two sets.

Verdasco reached the semi-finals in 2009, upsetting Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before falling to eventual champion Rafael Nadal in a memorable five-set battle. Last year in Melbourne, he bowed out in the first round to Bernard Tomic after holding a two-set lead.

Jurgen Melzer, the 26th seed, overwhelmed Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Melzer converted seven of his 16 break points to defeat the Kazakh in 82 minutes. Kukushkin advanced to the round of 16 in 2012.

Edouard Roger-Vasselin prevailed in a match that went down to the wire, edging qualifier Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 7-5, 11-9. Bemelmans broke Roger-Vasselin for a 9-8 lead in the deciding set, before the Frenchman reeled off three games in a row to complete the comeback in four hours and 25 minutes.

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