Djokovic sails past Stebe in opener

Djokovic sails past Stebe in opener

Tennis Foreign round-up: Serbian world number one returns after his Australian Open triumph

World number one Novak Djokovic's first competitive outing since last month's epic Australian Open final was a much more routine affair as he began the defence of his Dubai Championships title with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Cedrik-Marcel Stebe on Monday.

The last time Djokovic played, he thumped his chest with delight, then trudged wearily off court following his five-hour, 53-minute duel against Rafael Nadal, the longest Grand Slam final ever played.

On a calmer day in Dubai that began with Djokovic in the crowd as a spectator watching his 20-year-old brother Marko lose to Kazakh Andrey Golubev, the Serb returned to his more clinical ways against German world number 72 Stebe.

Fans waving ‘Glad you're back Novak’ signs were not left disappointed as the five-time Grand Slam champion, chasing a fourth successive Dubai title, showed flashes of the form that has taken him to the summit of the men's game.

“I'm happy with the first match after four weeks definitely,” Djokovic told reporters after the match.

 “It's really nice stepping out on the court and seeing a full stadium and having a lot of support. I'm very flattered.” The Serb, who chalked up a 70-6 win-loss record in 2011, refused to get carried away by all the hype surrounding him and a possible calendar Grand Slam plus Olympic gold in 2012.

“I'm not really comparing 2012 with 2011. I'm not comparing any year with another year,” he said.

“The last year was amazing, definitely (the) best year of my career. If you ask me if I can repeat it, I don't know. It's going to be very, very hard obviously.”

Some of Djokovic's most likely challengers this year are in action on Tuesday with last-year's runner-up Roger Federer, third-seeded Andy Murray, fourth seed Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and fifth seed Tomas Berdych on court for places in round two.

Already through is American eighth seed Mardy Fish, who dispatched German
Andreas Beck 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour.

Sania exits

In the WTA Tour event at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, India’s Sania Mirza went down 2-6, 6-1, 4-6 to Eleni Daniilidou of Greece in the opening round.