Toronto, August 8: Novak Djokovic returned to the hard courts with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) win over lucky loser Mirza Basic at the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
The Serbian has rebuilt on clay and grass this year following a difficult stretch with injuries and the Wimbledon champion had too much for his modest opponent on Tuesday.
Ninth seed Djokovic had been set to face Hyeon Chung, his conqueror at the Australian Open, but a back injury to the South Korean handed Basic his opportunity in this clash.
Yet Djokovic ensured there would be no extended run for the Bosnian despite a second-set wobble, progressing to set up a second-round meeting with wild card Peter Polansky.
Playing for the first time since Wimbledon, Djokovic made a slow start but grew into the first set to claim the second of two break points and a lead at 4-2, sealing a comfortable opener with an ace.
The heavy favourite seemingly teed up the second set with a series of comfortable holds, but Basic delayed his opponent for a time and worked hard to keep pace in one sensational rally in the sixth game.
Djokovic quickly moved up a gear and the underdog sent a tired forehand into the net to slip behind, but the former world number one's next service game was poor and he screamed in frustration as a powerful Basic winner cancelled out the second-set advantage.
Basic completely lost his composure at 5-5 and was broken to love after hammering a volley long, but Djokovic stuttered again and a double-fault took the match to a tie-break.
Finally, four-time champion Djokovic pulled clear to clinch victory and salute the crowd.