ADELAIDE (AP): Novak Djokovic lost his doubles match but received a warm welcome from the crowd at the Adelaide International on Monday.
The 21-time major winner was deported from Australia a year ago after arriving unvaccinated against COVID-19 at a time when the country was still subject to strict quarantine regulations and proof of vaccination.
His first match was a low-key doubles encounter alongside Vasek Pospisil, and the pair lost 4-6 6-3 (10-5) to Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar.
Questions about how he would be received were quickly answered when Djokovic’s supporters flocked to the stadium to welcome him back.
Djokovic begins his singles campaign on Tuesday against Constant Lestienne as he builds up to the Australian Open, where he is looking for a record-extending 10th title.
Also Monday, Czech teenager Linda Noskova produced one of the first shocks of the 2023 season, beating eighth-ranked Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3 in the opening round.
The 18-year-old Noskova came through a tough qualifying draw in which she beat world No. 58 Anna Kalinskaya and No. 43 Anastasia Potapova before achieving the biggest win of her career over third-seeded Kasatkina.
The 102-ranked Noskova is competing in only her fifth main draw on the WTA Tour and had never played, let alone beaten, a top-10 player. She had been 0-2 against top-20 opponents.
Her best win before Monday had been over 38th-ranked Alizé Cornet in the second round en route to the semifinals in Prague last July.
Noskova took the first set comfortably in 46 minutes and broke to lead 4-3 in the second before Kasatkina broke back. She served for the match at 6-5 in but Kasatkina again fought back to take the set in a tiebreaker.
But the Czech revived to win the deciding set and the match in just over 2-1/2 hours, finishing with a sweeping cross-court forehand on match point. She broke Kasatkina’s serve eight times overall, hit 57 winners off the ground and won 21 of the 24 points when she came to net.
Kasatkina had an eventful 2022 season during which she broke back into the top 10. She also came out as gay and openly denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Noskova reached a ranking high of 87 in 2022 and qualified for the main draws at the French and U.S. Opens.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs but I think it was a really good season,” Noskova said. “I started around 300, I think, and then around 100 now, so it’s a pretty good progress.
“Obviously I need to pick it up a little bit to get back into the (top) 100 but hopefully I’m going to achieve it this year.”
Noskova now will face the winner of the match between Australia’s Priscilla Hon and American qualifier Claire Liu.
Later, fourth-seeded Veronika Kudermetova of Russia beat Amanda Anisimova of the United States 6-3, 6-0.
On the men’s side, Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan upset fifth-seeded Holger Rune of Denmark 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.