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(Reuters) Novak Djokovic may have cursed the draw for throwing up Fernando Verdasco as the first opponent in his Australian Open defence on Tuesday but the tough match-up against the Spanish giant-killer ultimately proved a blessing in disguise.

The Serb launched his bid for a record seventh title at Melbourne Park with an impressive 6-1 7-6(4) 6-2 win over the man who knocked Rafa Nadal out in the first round of last year's tournament.

Djokovic was forced to save five match points to beat Verdasco at the recent Qatar Open and was broken twice during a thrilling second set under the lights of Rod Laver Arena.

But the second seed defended brilliantly to defuse the veteran lefthander's power game and closed out the two-hour 20-minute clash.

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