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Djokovic begins Aussie Open defense with win

Novak Djokovic's quest for a three- peat got off to an easy start.

The world No. 1 from Serbia was a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 winner over oft-injured Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, as play commenced at the 2013 Australian Open on Monday.

"It's great to be back in Australia playing on this court," Djokovic said.

Djokovic is attempting to become the first man in the Open Era to win three straight Aussie Open titles. The three-time overall champ also won at Melbourne Park in 2008.

"Any achievement, especially if it's part of history, would mean a lot to me," Djokovic said. "I love this sport. This sport has been my life since I was four years old."

And Djokovic won't have to deal with Rafael Nadal, who is not participating in the event due to a virus. Djokovic defeated Nadal in last year's five-set final in a 5-hour, 53-minute marathon -- or longest-ever Grand Slam final.

Up next for Djokovic will be American Ryan Harrison.

Meanwhile, fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer, fresh off his title in Auckland, leveled Belgian Olivier Rochus 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 and fifth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych was a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 victor over American journeyman Michael Russell.

Up next for Ferrer will be American Tim Smyczek, while Berdych will encounter France's Guillaume Rufin in the round of 64. Smyczek straight-setted 6-foot-10 Croat Ivo Karlovic to advance.

Eighth-seeded Serb Janko Tipsarevic took out Aussie hero Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, 6-3. The former world No. 1 Hewitt is a two- time major champ and was the Aussie runner-up back in 2005. He was playing in his Open Era-record 17th straight Aussie Open.

Tenth-seeded Nicolas Almagro fought off American Steve Johnson in a five-set thriller, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2; Russian Andrey Kuznetsov upset 11th-seeded Argentine Juan Monaco 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 6-1; No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2, 6-4, 6-3; and No. 16 Japanese Kei Nishikori posted a 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Victor Hanescu.

American Sam Querrey, seeded 20th at this fortnight, overcame Spaniard Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Querrey's second-round opponent will be fellow American Brian Baker.

Other seeded winners were No. 22 Fernando Verdasco, No. 23 Mikhail Youzhny, No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz, No. 26 Jurgen Melzer, No. 28 Marcos Baghdatis, No. 31 Radek Stepanek, and No. 32 Julien Benneteau. The 2006 Aussie Open runner-up Baghdatis outlasted Spaniard Albert Ramos 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final match on Day 1.

The aforementioned Harrison came back to beat Colombian Santiago Giraldo 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, while Baker snuck past Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-7 (0-7), 3-6, 6-2.

Several other men reached the second round, including South African Kevin Anderson, Belgian Xavier Malisse and Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez.

The first round will wrap up on Tuesday with 32 more men's matches, including ones for second-seeded four-time Aussie champion Roger Federer and third- seeded two-time runner-up Andy Murray. The reigning Wimbledon champion, 17- time Grand Slam king and former world No. 1 Federer will take on capable Frenchman Benoit Paire, while the reigning U.S. Open and Olympic titlist Murray will battle big-serving Dutchman Robin Haase.

Some other seeds slated for action on Day 2 are No. 6 former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, No. 7 former Aussie runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 9 Richard Gasquet, and No. 13 Canadian slugger Milos Raonic.