By Frank Pingue
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic began his U.S. Open title defence in style with a 6-4 6-1 6-4 win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena in first-round action on Monday.
The top-seeded Serbian, who has claimed four of the last five Grand Slam titles, took some time to settle in to his first career meeting with Carballes Baena but after a tight first set was off to the races.
“Obviously getting out of the block it takes a little bit of time to feel comfortable on the court,” Djokovic, who beat Juan Martin del Potro in last year’s final, said in his on-court interview.
“But we’re moving on. Obviously it’s not the first time to be in the second round so I know what I need to do.”
Djokovic got an early break to go ahead 2-0 in the second set and never looked back as the three-times champion used a mix of deft volleys, solid movement and great instincts to remain undefeated in 14 career first-round matches in New York.
Carballes Baena looked up for the task early on as he fought off a trio of break points to hold for 1-1 in a game that lasted nearly 10 minutes.
The Spanish world number 76 kept up the fight and was serving at 4-5 in the opening set but Djokovic sent a backhand volley to an empty court to set up a pair of break points and converted on his first chance.
Djokovic was never tested the rest of the way and did not face a break point in the entire match.
“It’s great to be back,” Djokovic said. “I’m grateful that at this stage of my life and career I am still competing at a Grand Slam at a high level.
“We sometimes have to remind ourselves of these blessings.”
Up next for Djokovic will be either American Sam Querrey or Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Clare Fallon)