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Dimitrov Cruises In Melbourne Opener

Third seed Grigor Dimitrov made a strong start to his 2018 Australian Open campaign, dismissing Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 on Monday at Melbourne Park.

The Bulgarian finished 2017 by winning the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals in London, where he beat David Goffin. After another strong effort at the ATP Training Camp in Monte-Carlo in December, Dimitrov opened his 2018 season with a semi-final showing in Brisbane, and is now looking to win his first Grand Slam championship. He reached the semi-finals in Melbourne last year, losing a heart-breaking five-set contest against Rafael Nadal.

Grigor Dimitrov drops just six games in his opening win at the Australian Open.
"It's still early in the tournament," said Dimitrov. "I just had to come out and just play my game, simple as that. I'd never played the opponent [so], in a way, I didn't know what to expect. I just had to be focused. He already had three matches under his belt. I think it's a good start today."

Against the No. 226-ranked Novak, who was making his Grand Slam main draw debut, Dimitrov struck 21 winners and won almost twice as many points (95-57) as his opponent. He booked his spot in the second round in one hour and 38 minutes.

Dimitrov goes on to face Mackenzie McDonald, who beat fellow qualifier Elias Ymer of Sweden 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.

John Isner, the No. 16 seed, had won all three of his previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Matthew Ebden without dropping a set. But the Australian, who rose 619 spots into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings in 2017, defeated the big-serving American 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

"I feel great," said Ebden. "I'm obviously very excited just at the level I was able to produce again on the match court. I've been playing that level now for a while. I've just been working to maintain and even improve on that day in, day out."

Ebden was certainly opportunistic, seizing all four break point chances he earned in the match, while saving two of the three held against him. Isner was second on the ATP World Tour in 2017, saving 71 per cent (140/197) of break points.

It is a disappointing loss for Isner, who came within two victories of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time in 2017 when he advanced to the semi-finals of the Rolex Paris Masters, before suffering a shocking exit at the hands of qualifier Filip Krajinovic. Meanwhile Eden, who pushed eventual champion Nick Kyrgios to three sets in the second round of the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, moves on to the second round at Melbourne Park for the third time in his career.

Ebden will face Alexandr Dolgopolov, who ousted Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets.

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