Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns to Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany during their Dubai Open match in the Gulf emirate on Monday.
Novak Djokovic shook off the rust to beat Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-4, 6-2 at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Monday in his first match since winning the Australian Open.
Sixth-seeded Mardy Fish also had an easy time against Andreas Beck of Germany, winning 6-1, 6-1 to join Djokovic in the second round.
The top-ranked Djokovic has not played a match in nearly four weeks and it showed at times. He broke the 72nd-ranked German to go up 1-0 but had to save two break points in the fourth game as he struggled with Stebe's return game. Stebe pushed the set to 5-4 and deuce before Djokovic hit his first ace and another good serve which the German returned long.
Djokovic had an easier second set, breaking twice. He won the match with his third ace of the match and another serve that Stebe couldn't return.
"He definitely played well. I was impressed with his game, especially in the first set," Djokovic said of Stebe, who moved up nearly 300 ranking places in 2011 and took Lleyton Hewitt to four sets at the Australian Open last month.
Djokovic, going for a fourth consecutive Dubai title, is now 8-0 this year after beating Stebe. He insisted that he was not concerned with matching his exploits in 2011, in which he won three grand slams and started the season with a 41-match winning streak.
"Well, you know, people talk about that obviously, and I'm expecting that. But to be honest, I'm not really comparing 2012 with 2011," Djokovic said. "The last year was amazing. Definitely 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."
A few hours before his match, Djokovic was courtside as his younger brother Marko lost his match to Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2. The 869th-ranked Djokovic was granted a wildcard into the tournament.
Djokovic serves as a mentor of sorts for the 20-year-old Marko, admitting that it can difficult for Marko and his other tennis-playing brother, 16-year-old Djordje, to always be compared to him. "In the end, he has to face this, I guess, pressure in a way for having Djokovic surname," Djokovic said of Marko. "All over the world where he plays tennis, I guess he has to face this pressure that is not necessary for him at this age. It's his burden, and he's very committed. He wants to succeed in tennis."