Novak Djokovic eased into the second round of the Australian Open ©Getty Images

Defending men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic overcame his tricky first round test against Spain's Fernando Verdasco to progress at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The Serbian star is chasing a seventh title at the Grand Slam and was expected to face a tough test at the Rod Laver Arena against the world number 40 Verdasco, previously ranked as high as seventh.

Djokovic was not troubled by his opponent in the first set, the Spaniard misfiring badly to gift the world number two the opener 6-1.

The second set proved a far tougher challenge for Djokovic after Verdasco immediately achieved a break of serve.

The Serbian player battled back to eventually triumph in a tie break.

Verdasco, the 2009 Australian Open semi-finalist, was then brushed aside in the third set, with Djokovic sealing a 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 victory.

"It feels like home," Djokovic, chasing a sixth victory in seven years in Melbourne, said. 

"It feels like coming back to the place that I had an incredible amount of beautiful memories."

America's Serena Williams eased to a straight sets win over Switzerland's Belinda Bencic ©Getty Images
America's Serena Williams eased to a straight sets win over Switzerland's Belinda Bencic ©Getty Images

There was victory for another former champion as Spain’s Rafael Nadal cruised to a straightforward triumph against Germany's Florian Mayer.

Nadal, who has dropped to ninth in the world following a string of injuries, secured a straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win as he begins his pursuit of a first Grand Slam title since winning the French Open in 2014.

The closest men’s first round match featured the big serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic and Argentine Horacio Zeballos.

Karlovic’s 6-7, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 was the longest at the tournament in terms of games since tie-breaks were introduced in the 1970s.

Last year’s beaten women’s finalist Serena Williams eased into the second round as the six-time winner beat Belinda Bencic.

The American, who could win an open era record 23rd Grand Slam singles title, achieved 6-4, 6-3 win over her 19-year-old Swiss opponent.

Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska was forced to battle in her opening match against Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova, but the third seed eventually prevailed 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.