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Edberg back on the courts


David Ferrer. Picture: REUTERS/David Gray

David Ferrer. Picture: REUTERS/David Gray

David Ferrer. Picture: REUTERS/David Gray

NOVAK Djokovic began the defence of his Australian Open crown in front of new coach Boris Becker with a 25th straight victory at the Australian Open.

David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych also progressed smoothly to the second round but it was the return of an old stager that added glitz to day one of the tournament.

Stefan Edberg was back on court at Melbourne Park as he took part in his first training session with Roger Federer.

The Swede, a six-time grand slam champion, has agreed to work with Federer for 10 weeks this season alongside the world number six's regular coach Severin Luthi.

Edberg will lock horns once again with his 1980s rivals Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl, now coaching Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray respectively.

Federer begins his campaign tomorrow against Australian wild card James Duckworth in the second match on Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic's first-round clash with Slovakian Lukas Lacko was his first competitive match since hiring Becker as his head coach last month.

There were no alarms for the Serbian, who is bidding to become the second man after Roy Emerson to win four straight titles here, in a 6-3 7-6 (7/2) 6-1 victory.

Third seed Ferrer, who reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park last year, defeated Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez 6-3 6-4 6-4 in his first-round match.



There were 13 breaks of serve and Ferrer had to come from behind in both the second and third sets.

The Spaniard also has a new coach having split from Javier Piles, his mentor of 15 years, and hired Jose Altur.

He said of the Piles decision: "We both broke it off because we were a lot of years together, and we decided to stop. Nothing else. Just that. Nothing personal.

"Javier is very special for me. He's a good friend. I travelled with Jose sometimes so I know him and he knows me."

Eighth seed Wawrinka did not even have to finish his match after Kazakh opponent Andrey Golubev retired with the Swiss leading 6-4 4-1.

Wawrinka was voted Swiss sports personality of the year at the weekend after his great form in 2013, which began with a titanic five-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

He said: "I have more confidence in myself. I know that I can play and go well in the grand slams. I already did.

"I started the year well with winning the first title (in Chennai), so that's giving me a lot of confidence. I'm feeling physically strong and mentally there."

Seventh seed Berdych also won in straight sets, beating another Kazakh, Alexandr Nedovyesov, 6-3 6-4 6-3.

The Czech's eye-catching blue and white striped shirt was the main talking point afterwards, and he said: "I think it's very nice, very interesting. All the others look quite the same. So this is something new."

German Tommy Haas was the first seed to go out, a shoulder injury forcing the 35-year-old to withdraw while trailing Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5 5-2.

There were wins for ninth seed Richard Gasquet, 23rd seed Ernests Gulbis and 19th seed Kevin Anderson, who fought back from two sets down against 20-year-old Jiri Vesely.

Meanwhile, Australian Matthew Ebden avoided the heartbreak of losing a five-set match for the third straight year, rallying to beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-3 7-5 4-6 0-6 6-3.