Defending champion Novak Djokovic dropped his first set in the opening round of the Australian Open since 2006 before grinding down Jan-Lennard Struff to keep his quest for a record eighth title on track while Roger Federer swatted aside Steve Johnson to race into the second round Monday as he kickstarted his bid for a 21st Grand Slam title in immaculate style.

However, heavy downpours caused chaos on Monday, forcing organisers to postpone a swathe of matches. While play continued at the three stadiums with retractable roofs, half of the 64 scheduled matches were postponed, ensuring a big backlog for Tuesday.

Wet conditions are unusual for the Australian Open, which is more used to extreme heat and was plagued by smog from bushfires during qualifying, when players suffered coughing fits and breathing problems.

The 16-time Major winner finally got the job done 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena for his 900th career win to make the second round at Melbourne Park for a 14th consecutive year.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who made the Australian Open semi-finals last year, opened his 2020 campaign by crushing Salvatore Caruso 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.

The ageless Swiss great, 38, said ahead of the tournament that he had low expectations at the year’s opening Grand Slam after missing the warm-up ATP Cup to spend more time with his family.

It left him short of match practice, but it didn’t show on Rod Laver Arena against the American in his 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 demolition.

“I felt really good. I trained really hard, like I always do, and happy I did not have any [injury] setbacks [in the off-season],” said Federer. “I am happy, I played well in practice and happy it showed on the court as well.”

The crowd favourite knew he needed to get out of the blocks fast against the world number 75 and that’s what he did, racing to a 4-1 lead in the opening set before a 10-minute interruption for the roof to be shut due to rain.

Federer returned and wrapped up the set in just 27 minutes.

Johnson, known for his big forehand and slice backhand, again gave away service breaks early in the next two sets and there was no way back against a man who delivered some jaw-dropping returns and forehands.

He will next play either French qualifier Quentin Halys or Serbian Filip Krajinovic.

Earlier, 13th seed Denis Shapovalov lost his opener after an epic row with the umpire for throwing his racquet in frustration.

The Canadian was beaten 6-3, 7-6 (9/7), 6-1, 7-6 (7/3) by Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in a big upset on day one of the first Grand Slam of the year.

Considered one of the new generation who could challenge the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the 20-year-old lost the plot after being crushed in the third set.

The umpire warned him for throwing down his racquet and it didn’t go down well with the temperamental Canadian.

“I’m not breaking any rules,” he shouted at the official. “It’s my racquet I can do whatever the hell I want with it.”

“What are you talking about, I didn’t break it,” he added. “If I broke it, give me a code, 100 percent. I didn’t break my racquet. It was a terrible call, do your job.”

Shapovalov, who crashed out of the Auckland Classic last week to a qualifier, never really got going with his emotions getting the better of him.

It was a setback for the Canadian, who enjoyed a strong finish to a topsy-turvy 2019 season which featured his maiden ATP title in Stockholm. He also made the Paris Masters final, losing to Djokovic.

World number 67 Fucsovics, who was bundled out in the second round at Melbourne Park last year, said he played some of his best tennis.

“I was hitting the ball really well, I like it here. I played some of my best tennis today. Everything was working,” he said.


1st round

Matteo Berrettini (ITA x8) bt Andrew Harris (AUS) 6-3, 6-1, 6-3

Ricardas Berankis (LIT) bt Roberto Carballes (ESP) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2

Sam Querrey (USA) bt Borna Coric (CRO x25) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

Guido Pella (ARG x22) bt John-Patrick Smith (AUS) 6-3, 7-5, 6-4

Gregoire Barrere (FRA) bt Mohamed Safwat (EGY) 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 7-6 (7/5)

Marton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Denis Shapovalov (CAN x13) 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-1, 7-6 (7/3)

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x18) bt Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4

Daniel Evans (GBR x30) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3

Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) bt Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/1)

Roger Federer (SUI x3) bt Steve Johnson (USA) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x6) bt Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 6-0, 6-2, 6-3

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) bt Marcos Giron (USA) 7-5, 6-1, 6-2

Novak Djokovic (SRB x2) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1

With AFP Inputs