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Tennis: Below-par Djokovic wins in debut under Becker

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Novak Djokovic won his competitive debut under new coach Boris Becker as he got his Australian Open title defence underway in uncharacteristically loose fashion Monday.

The Serbian world number two, bidding to win a fourth consecutive Australian title and fifth overall, took close to two hours to subdue 96th-ranked Slovak Lukas Lacko before prevailing 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1. He will face Argentina's Leonardo Mayer in the next round.

Elsewhere on a hot opening day in Melbourne, with temperatures forecast to soar for the rest of the week, David Ferrer led fellow top 10 players Stanislas Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet into the second round.

With tennis great Becker courtside, Djokovic looked far from his best and made 30 unforced errors but once he swept through the second set tiebreaker the contest was quickly over.

Six-time Grand Slam champion Becker has been brought in to improve Djokovic's game after a disappointing 2013 by his own high standards and with his regular coach, Marian Vajda, keen for more family time.

"There are parts of my game where he definitely can help me out, I can improve," Djokovic said of his association with Becker.

"I still see the room for improvement with my serve, with the return, with net play and so forth. But also from the mental point of view.

"Boris has won so many Grand Slam tournaments, was number one in the world. He knows exactly the way I feel, what I need to face, what sort of challenges I need to overcome during the tough moments, the tough matches.

"That's also where he can give the right and positive input. We'll see. It's just the beginning."

Third seed Ferrer powered through in straight sets over Colombia's Alejandro Gonzalez in just over two hours.

It set up Ferrer for a clash against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino as he attempts to make up for his hollow exit to Djokovic in last year's semi-final.

Djokovic, who went on to win his third straight Australian title, swept Ferrer aside in just 89 minutes and the super-fit Spaniard is angling to improve enough to be a title contender.

"Every week is different. The last match I played here was very bad, but it's just one match," Ferrer said. "Now I am in another tournament, other conditions.

"I played well today. I play good some moments in the match and I have to be positive."

Ferrer is ranked behind Rafael Nadal and Djokovic but ahead of Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

Berdych was formidable on serve as he disposed of Kazakhstan's Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in his first match.

The Czech seventh seed only had two break points in the one hour 50 minutes encounter while breaking Nedovyesov's serve four times.

Swiss eighth seed Wawrinka progressed on an injury retirement by his opening round Kazakh opponent Andrey Golubev.

Golubev retired with a calf injury in the second set of their match on Hisense Arena with Wawrinka leading 6-4, 4-1 at the time.

"I was feeling good. I think it's one of the best starts in a Grand Slam how I felt on the court," Wawrinka said.

"I was moving well, playing strong, playing okay. For sure I made some mistakes, but for the first (match) it's never easy."

French ninth seed Gasquet, who withdrew from the Kooyong Classic final last weekend with rib trouble, got past countryman David Guez 7-5, 6-4, 6-1.

German 12th seed Tommy Haas also pulled out of his match while trailing Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 5-2 with a right shoulder problem.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Jerzy Janowicz had a scare when Australian wildcard Jordan Thompson raced to a two sets lead, but he came back to win over five sets in three hours and 16 minutes.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140113/tennis-below-par-djokovic-wins-debut-under-becker