(Melbourne) Before facing reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday, Dino Prizmic had never taken part in a Grand Slam match.

The 18-year-old Croatian qualifier, who was born seven months after Djokovic made his Grand Slam debut in 2005, kept the suspense going as long as he could.

He upset the winner of 24 major singles titles before Djokovic ended the debate in four sets 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic built an Australian Open record that no man can match, 10 titles in Melbourne during his career. He later said he “wasn’t feeling well” for four or five days, but he gave credit to Prizmic’s talent.

The first round went as planned. From then on, things were very different.

Prizmic won the second set and took the lead with a break in the third set. The world number one recovered this break and finally won the set.

Prizmic trailed 4-0 in the fourth set, but he didn’t give up. He saved a break point and broke Djokovic himself. The Croatian then saved three match points at 5-3 to force Djokovic to serve for the victory. The latter was acquired not without difficulty, after four hours and one minute of play.

“He deserved every applause and all the credit tonight,” Djokovic said. He had an extraordinary performance for an 18-year-old who had no experience on a big sporting stage. Bravo to him. »

The first of three Sundays – an extra day was added at Melbourne Park in an attempt to reduce the number of matches going past midnight – didn’t really have the desired effect.

Andrey Rublev, the fifth seed, needed four hours to defeat Thiago Seyboth Wild 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (6).

Taylor Fritz (No. 12) needed a medical timeout in the second set to tap his left ankle and defeated Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6 -2, 6-4, in another four-hour duel.

Frances Tiafoe (No. 17) eliminated Borna Coric in four sets of 6-3, 7-6 (7), 2-6), 6-3 and in three and a half hours while Daniel Elahi Galan needed almost five hours to beat Australian Jason Kubler 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-6 (8).

It was only the Italian Jannik Sinner who didn’t really spend too much time on the pitch.

Under the Italian flags in Melbourne, Sinner opened the Australian Open with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Botic van de Zandschulp.

The fourth seed needed 2:35 to end his duel against the 59th in the world. This is Sinner’s first victory since November, when he scored a memorable win over Djokovic that helped Italy win the Davis Cup.

“It means a lot to me to start [the season] with a victory,” Sinner said. Physically, I feel good. I am here in good shape. I think I can be satisfied today. »

Several Sinner supporters, nicknamed the “Carota Boys” and now famous for their carrot costumes, were present in the stands. Sinner did not hide his surprise at their presence.

“It’s good to see them in the stands,” he said. They are slowly becoming more famous than me. Maybe their support gives me extra confidence during key moments, who knows? Let’s see how it goes here. But I’m happy they’re here. »

Another Italian, Matteo Arnaldi, beat Adam Walton 7-6 (5), 6-2 and 6-4.

The first match to go to five sets was won 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6 and 6-2 by Francisco Cerundolo (No. 22), against Australian Dane Sweeny.

Marin Cilic, finalist in 2018, was defeated 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 and 7-5 by Hungarian Fabian Marozsan.

On the women’s side, Djokovic’s long match forced defending champion Aryna Sabalenka to wait until 11:41 p.m. local time to start her match. The second seed wasted no time, showing 18-year-old Ella Seidel the exit in 53 minutes, having triumphed 6-0, 6-1.

Maria Sakkari (No. 8) breathed a sigh of relief as she defeated Japan’s Nao Hibino 6-4, 6-1. It was his first Grand Slam victory since last year’s Australian Open.

“I lost three times in the first round in the last three Grand Slam tournaments,” she said. For me, it was an emotionally difficult match. I’m happy to have done the job and played a good second set. »

Brenda Fruhvirtova scored her first victory at a major tournament. The 16-year-old Czech defeated Romanian Anna Bogdan 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko (No. 32) came from behind to defeat Lucia Bronzetti 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 and Russian Maria Timofeeva prevailed 6-2, 6-4 against Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet. The latter was taking part in a 68th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, a record for women. Finally, Amanda Anisimova surprised Liudmila Samsonova (No. 13) in two sets of 6-3, 6-4.

The first major tournament of the season will stretch over 15 days – the first round is spread over three days – and began on a Sunday for the first time.