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Djokovic off to winning start in Indian Wells, Musetti scrapes past Shapovalov

Novak Djokovic is playing in “Tennis Paradise” for the first time since 2019. He would like nothing more than to making a triumphant return to the BNP Paribas Open with his sixth title.

Of course, Djokovic has a long way to go before that can happen–but he gave himself a chance by winning his opening match on Saturday afternoon. The world No. 1 was forced to work hard, but he came up with enough goods to defeated Aleksandar Vukic 6-2, 5-7, 7-3 in two hours and 11 minutes.

“Five years is quite a long time for a professional tennis player, but at the same time playing here the last time in 2019 felt like yesterday,” Djokovic said. “I connected with the crowd and everyone I haven’t seen in five years very quickly. A lot of people come to practice sessions, not just mine. It’s amazing to see that much passion and respect and appreciation for tennis and tennis players.

“It’s awesome to be in Tennis Paradise.”

A little bit of Djokovic rust and a lot of impressive tennis by Vukic resulted in a surprisingly competitive match.

“He played amazing and deserved great credit and applause,” the top-seeded Serb praised. “The crowd really appreciated his tennis and the quality was really high. He played some ripping forehands and crushing serves. It was difficult to go through him.

“He was going for it and it was going in. I kind of managed to crack the code in the third set and once I broke his serve I felt I stepped it up a bit and finished off the match in style.”

Djokovic is joined in the last 32 by Holger Rune, Taylor Fritz, Grigor Dimitrov, and Lorenzo Musetti. Rune got a walkover from an injured Milos Raonic; Musetti came back from a break down in the third set to defeat Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.