Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning his first round match against Spain’s Roberto at Australian Open on Tuesday. MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic returned to the Australian Open nearly 700 days since winning the title for a ninth time and continued exactly where he left off at the Grand Slam he has dominated with a commanding first-round win on Tuesday. Djokovic was cheered on to Rod Laver Arena to complete a manic day with scorching heat and drenching rain. Deprived of a tilt at a record-extending 10th title last year after being deported on the eve of the tournament for not having a COVID-19 vaccination, the Serbian showed his class as he glided past Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 6-4 6-0. Welcomed like a returning hero by the evening crowd, many sporting Serbian flags, the 35-year-old Djokovic was imperious throughout and rattled off the third set for the loss of four points to seal an 83rd win at the tournament. “It was an unbelievable atmosphere,” fourth seed Djokovic, who has now won 22 matches in a row in Melbourne since his last loss in 2018, said on court. “Thanks for the welcome and the reception that I could only dream of. Very happy to be back.” After the bitter memory of last year when Djokovic was confined to a hotel housing asylum seekers while awaiting his fate, his return was incident-free as he showed no sign of the hamstring niggle that had cast a cloud in the build-up. Organisers had their work cut out as extreme heat forced a three-hour stoppage on the outside courts. As night fell, a storm brought heavy rain, leaving 11 matches unfinished, including nine which did not even start. Under the Rod Laver roof, second seed Ons Jabeur was given a scare by Tamara Zidansek before winning 7-6(8) 4-6 6-1. Twelfth seed Zverev had a huge scare against world number 103 Varillas but the German steadied himself to win a four-hour dogfight 4-6 6-1 5-7 7-6(3) 6-4 at the Margaret Court Arena. It was Zverev’s first win since tearing ankle ligaments in last year’s French Open semi-final against Rafa Nadal.