Former world number one Novak Djokovic marked his first appearance on the court since Wimbledon by trumping Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 on Wednesday at the Kooyong Classic.
The Serb wasn’t at his best in defeating the world number five. But Djokovic, 30, showed that the elbow injury which kept him out of action through the second half of last year has seemingly healed.
“I feel great, I was eager to get onto the court and play,” the six-time Australian Open champion said. “It was a test for me to see where I am, how the work we did pays off on court.
“And it worked pretty well,” he added.
Djokovic last played in July when he played through the pain in a losing Wimbledon quarter-final to Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic has slipped to 14 in the world, his lowest ranking in 10 years, giving him extra drive to make inroads at the season-opening major.
Thiem said he had recovered from a virus which forced him to hand a semi-final walkover to Gael Monfils at the weekend in Doha.
“I’m free of fever and healthy again,” the world number five said. “There was a lot of fever and throat pain, everything.
“I’m still jet-lagged, I was slow at the beginning of the match. I’ll sleep, eat and train and not do too much. I’ll be fine for the Open.”
Djokovic said that despite feeling fine now after cancelling his appearance last week at Doha, he needed the competitive test of Kooyong to assess the state of his long-running injury.
“I don’t want to be over-confident, but I’m very, very happy with how it went today. I don’t say I’m at 100 per cent – I can only say that when I get the feel of a tournament.
“I would have had another tournament before the start of the Open, but it was not meant to be. But I’ll do whatever I can.”
Elsewhere at Kooyong, Australian Matthew Ebden surprised Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic, handing the Croatian a 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 7-5 loss in the first match for both in 2018.
Sixth-ranked Cilic said he needs only a few more days of training to be ready for the start of the Open at Melbourne Park.
“I was going for my shots, but missing a bit today. Overall, I’m quite happy with my level. I was feeling the ball well and hitting cleanly from both sides.
“There is a slight opportunity for a few guys in the field,” the Croatian said of thse making comebacks amid injury absences including that of Andy Murray.
“Rafa and Roger are the best ones, but I’m playing well and I’m in good shape. My level is really, really high right now. If I start well, I could go really deep.”
The draw for the Open is announced Thursday, with the first round to begin Monday.(dpa/NAN)