"If Novak plays like that, he will be tough to beat", said Paul Annacone, the Tennis Channel analyst who knows too well from his years coaching Roger Federer how hard Djokovic is to beat at his peak.
"I play down my chances just because I don't think a 36-year-old should be a favourite of a tournament", Federer said Sunday on the eve of the year's first Grand Slam tournament, "It should not be the case".
The former world number one was playing his first official match since retiring during his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych a year ago with elbow problems that forced him to miss the rest of the season. He's been met on the court after wins here by tennis greats Laver, John McEnroe and Jim Courier. "I mean, we are here at the Australian Open, and they always try to compensate the players in a best possible way. I am delighted", the former world number one told reporters. We wanted to use this opportunity to speak about certain subjects and see how everyone reacts to that, and I guess see what opinions are.
It was the Russian star's first match at Melbourne for two years, having tested positive for performance-enhancing meldonium in Australia in 2016 and only returning from a 15-month doping ban last April. The only move of doubt came when he failed to serve out the second set at the first attempt, but he was not seriously disturbed as he cinched victory in 1hr 51mins.
It was more of the same in the third, another early break paving the way for Djokovic to canter to victory and a second-round meeting with either Gael Monfils or Jaume Munar.
Bernarda Pera, a Croatian-born American who lives in New Jersey, beat Anna Blinkova of Russian Federation 6-2, 6-2 for her first win at a Grand Slam.
World number one Simona Halep booked her place in round two, avoiding the first round exit that befell her in the past two years.
German Andrea Petkovic won the final three games to beat two-time Wimbledon victor Petra Kvitova 6-3 4-6 10-8 in a thrilling first-round encounter, which lasted two hours and 52 minutes.
There was plenty of support for 47th ranked five-times grand slam champion Sharapova yesterday. But Raonic, who has made at least the last eight over the past three years in Melbourne, was bundled out by 86th-ranked Slovakian Lukas Lacko in four sets.
The Canadian is coming off an injury-filled season that saw his ranking drop to No. 24 from a career-high of No. 3 in 2016.
It was also a straightforward outing for Federer, who was compared by Anchorman actor Ferrell to a "silky gazelle".
Both the Romanian and her 17-year-old wildcard opponent needed on-court medical attention before the top seed ran out a battling 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 victor.