‘Novak Djokovic said ‘I’m sorry’ at the net,’ says Marat Safin

With nine trophies on his tally, Novak Djokovic stands as the most decorated player at the Australian Open in the Open era. Novak qualified for his first Australian Open main draw on January 15, 2005, beating Wesley Moodie 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to make a debut on the big scene at 17. Two days later, the youngster faced world no. 4 Marat Safin on his Major debut and suffered a 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 loss in 74 minutes. The finalist from a year ago and an eventual champion won almost 50 points more than Djokovic, stealing nearly 70% of the return points to forge a massive advantage and sail over the finish line. Novak broke Marat once, but he needed more than that to stay competitive and challenge a great rival on Rod Laver Arena in front of the packed crowd. Safin created 13 break chances and seized nine to control the scoreboard and sail into the next round.

Novak Djokovic made his Major debut at the Australian Open 2005.

The Russian made a strong start and claimed the opener 6-0 with a service winner after just 19 minutes. The 17-year-old produced two solid holds at the beginning of the second set to gain some momentum before hitting a double fault at 2-2 to experience a break and send Safin in front. Marat grabbed another break following Novak’s double fault in the seventh game and closed the set with an unreturned serve a few minutes later for a 6-0, 6-2 advantage in 49 minutes! At the beginning of the third set, the rivals traded breaks, and Safin clinched another at 1-1 to move in front. World no. 4 placed a return winner at 3-1 to extend the advantage and emerged at the top with another successful return game at 5-1.

“I played well. It was the opening round, and it’s better to focus and give your 100% to seal the deal without problems. You have to spend as little time on the court as possible because you never know what awaits you in the next one. Novak is young, and nobody knows anything about him. I had to be careful, as I knew he had nothing to lose. I’m happy to see that many people from Serbia and Russia cheer for us. Novak said ‘I’m sorry’ after the match, probably because it looked so easy. Still, he gave his best, and I’m sure he will be a great player, and I told him that. He is 17 and has great potential; I wish him all the best and a long successful career,” Marat Safin said about Novak Djokovic.