Tennis: Bitter Grand Slam debut for Seidel - Djokovic with a show of strength

Ella Seidel shed bitter tears at midnight on her hopeless Grand Slam debut, Melbourne record champion Novak Djokovic only averted a sensational first-round exit after a four-hour show of strength.

Tennis: Bitter Grand Slam debut for Seidel - Djokovic with a show of strength

Ella Seidel shed bitter tears at midnight on her hopeless Grand Slam debut, Melbourne record champion Novak Djokovic only averted a sensational first-round exit after a four-hour show of strength. The Australian Open got off to a spectacular start.

For the 18-year-old Seidel, the start of the first Grand Slam tournament of the tennis season was a bitter lesson. The Hamburg qualifier had to admit defeat against defending champion Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus with 0:6, 1:6 and had absolutely no chance. The Grand Slam debut that Seidel longed for only lasted 53 minutes before the merciless Sabalenka converted her seventh match point.

Boris Becker suffered when Ella Seidel had no chance at the start and, despite the lesson, is hoping for a boost for the future. "It's obviously brutal for her family, for all of us to see a sad girl. Nevertheless, she has to be proud," said the three-time Wimbledon winner as a TV expert on Eurosport. "You can't pay for these experiences with money. I think it will give her an incredible amount of strength and energy in the next few weeks and months."

Because Novak Djokovic's game had previously lasted more than four hours, Seidel's biggest match of his career to date only began shortly before midnight. In the arena, which was no longer even half full, Sabalenka was in a hurry. With her powerful punches, she didn't allow Seidel to develop at all and took the first set after just 22 minutes.

Not the slightest chance

Seidel didn't have the slightest chance in the second round either. In the middle of the second set, the North German was fighting back tears, Barbara Rittner and Andrea Petkovic were suffering in the stands with the young German hope. "You would like to hide and sneak out. That's not a nice feeling," said ex-professional Anke Huber as a TV expert at Eurosport.

"It's obviously brutal for her family, for all of us to see a sad girl. Nevertheless, she has to be proud," said Boris Becker at Eurosport. "You can't pay for these experiences with money. I think it will give her an incredible amount of strength and energy in the next few weeks and months."

At least Seidel managed to win the game in the end, so that she was spared the humiliation of a 0:6, 0:6. When she completed her serve for the first time, a slight smile even crossed her lips. But shortly afterwards the game was over. "It's been a lesson, but you have to keep going," said Huber about Seidel, who had already shown strong performances at the end of last year and was at least rewarded with her - albeit painful - Grand Slam debut in Melbourne.

Djokovic has to fight hard

While defending champion Sabalenka had an easy gallop into the first Grand Slam tournament of the season, Djokovic had to fight hard in his first appearance. The world number one from Serbia defeated Croatian qualifier Dino Prizmic 6:2, 6:7 (5:7), 6:3, 6:4 and moved into the second round of his favorite Grand Slam. Djokovic would have been the first defending champion since Boris Becker in 1997 to be eliminated in the first round.

"He's an incredible player. It's his moment, he deserves every applause," said Djokovic (36) after the game about his opponent, who is half his age. "He really gave me a run for my money today. It was an incredible performance for an 18-year-old who has never played a Grand Slam match before."

Djokovic, who has already won the tennis spectacle on the Yarra River ten times, showed unusual weaknesses in the Rod Laver Arena. After winning the first set easily, he made numerous slight mistakes and Prizmic suddenly played big.

In the third set, Djokovic was already a break behind, but then fought his way back into the game and turned the round in his favor. This meant that the resistance of Prizmic, who won the junior competition at the French Open in Paris last year and made his Grand Slam men's debut in Melbourne, was broken for the time being.

Seventh match point converted

Djokovic quickly moved ahead to 4-0 in the fourth set. Although Prizmic fought back, after 4:01 hours the 24-time Grand Slam tournament champion converted his seventh match point. It was his 29th win in a row in Melbourne. Djokovic won the title Down Under in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023. In 2022 he was not allowed to compete in Melbourne because of his lack of a corona vaccination.

Tamara Korpatsch was the first German player to win her first round game. After initial difficulties, the 28-year-old from Hamburg won against Brit Jodie Burrage 2:6, 6:3, 6:0. Korpatsch now faces number nine seeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova.

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