Solid opening for Novak Djokovic in bid for fifth straight grand slam title

World No 1 accounts for Britain’s James Ward in opener on Centre Court as Wimbledon gets under way

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2016, 12:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2016, 12:44am

Novak Djokovic raced to a 6-0, 3-0 lead, then held firm the rest of the way as he opened his bid for a third straight Wimbledon title and fifth straight grand slam championship with a straight-sets win over Britain’s James Ward on Monday.

In keeping with tradition, Djokovic played the first match on Centre Court as the men’s defending champion, and he came through 6-0, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in just over two hours to extend his grand slam winning streak to 29 matches.

“This is probably the most unique experience in tennis playing as the defending champion in Wimbledon – untouched grass, first match, 1 o’clock Monday,” Djokovic said. “It’s really special to feel this tradition and history, to come back to the cradle of our sport. It was a wonderful experience.”

Djokovic holds all four grand slam titles. Having won the Australian Open and French Open, he’s also seeking to become the first man to capture the first three legs of a calendar-year grand slam since Rod Laver swept all four majors in 1969.

“Not much to say about my game, it was really flawless, I felt great,” Djokovic said of the early going.

When Ward finally won a game, hitting a service winner to make it 3-1 in the second set, the Briton threw up his arm in mock triumph and basked in a loud ovation from the home crowd. Ward broke in the next game and the two players went to a tiebreaker, which Djokovic dominated to reassert control.

“Nerves kicked in for James, obviously, but he started playing better, second part of the second set and it was very close,” Djokovic said. “It wasn’t easy to break his serve.”

Meanwhile, former world number one Ana Ivanovic was knocked out of the first round of the women’s competition and then revealed she won’t play again until the Olympics to recover from a wrist injury.

The 2008 French Open champion was stunned by Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, the world 223, losing 6-2, 7-5 to the grand slam debutant.

But the 28-year-old Serb blamed only her second opening-round loss at the All England Club in 12 visits on a right wrist injury.

“It was very hard to accelerate on my forehand. I tried to do everything possible to be fit and recover and tape it and so on,” said Ivanovic, who reached the semi-finals at the All England Club in 2007.

Five-time women’s champion Venus Williams had a stiff test, overcoming Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. The 36-year-old Williams, the oldest woman in the draw and playing in her 19th Wimbledon, saved two set points when the 20-year-old Vekic failed to serve out the first set at 6-5.

In the second, Vekic had a break chance to go up 5-3, but squandered the chance. Williams broke for 5-4 and served out the match.

Among seeded players who advanced in men’s play were No 5 Kei Nishikori of Japan who accounted for Australian Sam Groth 6-4, 6-3, 7-5; No 6 Milos Raonic of Canada who beat Pablo Carreno of Spain 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-4; former US Open champion and No 9 Marin Cilic, No 13 David Ferrer and No 23 Ivo Karlovic. The first seeded player ousted was No 21 Philipp Kohlschreiber, who fell in four sets to Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert

Women’s winners included No 14 Samantha Stosur and former finalist Sabine Lisicki, while No 25 Irina-Camelia Bergu of Romania was ousted in straight sets by Carina Witthoeft of Germany.

No 12 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain beat Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 while another Chinese player, Zheng Saisai lost to Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-3, 6-2.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse