Wimbledon | Djokovic, on Day One, shows he’s still the player to beat

Novak Djokovc may have, as defending champion, officially opened the 136th edition of the Wimbledon Championships but it was play on two of the minor show courts featuring Andrey Rublev on Court 3 and Lorenzo Musetti on Court 14 who had the honour of actually, at 11am, getting the men’s play underway.

For me, the opening match is always a little bit tricky. Grass takes a bit more time than any other surface to adapt Novak Djokovic

They both eased their way into The Fortnight with straight set victories and their performances in Rublev beating Max Purcell and Musetti downing Juan Pablo Varilas 6-3 7-5 6-4 and 6-3 6-1 7-5 respectively, the pair simply set the scene for some exciting play over the rest of the day which included British success to gladden home spirits.

As expected, Novak Djokovic opened the defence of his title successfully but there was some drama on court before he completed his 6-3 6-3 7-6(4) victory over Pedro Cachin.

Eyebrows were raised when the Serb was broken by the Argentine on his debut at The Championships whilst his opponent, a seven-time champion at the event was making his 18th appearance there.

There was never any fear that he would join the very short list of two champions who fell at the first hurdle the following year, but Djokovic, who has not played in any warm-up grass court tournaments since winning the French three weeks ago, wasn’t playing at his highest level but neither was his opponent who was no doubt nervous at facing him, especially on Centre Court where he has been unbeaten over the last five years.

His 29th successive win wasn’t his best, but it gave him a good runabout as he chases his eighth title at The Championships to match Roger Federer’s record.


The highlight of the match was Novak Djokovics frantic attempts not to foul the net

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The highlight of the two-hour, 12-minute contest was Djokovic trying to avoid crashing into the net after delicately retrieving and returning at speed, a drop shot which Cachin had covered to return down the line. The race was on between the ball landing and Djokovic fouling the net. Unfortunately for the Serb, he lost but it was a close call.

Rain also played a part to remind everyone that the weather likes to be included and contribute to the celebrations. The players halted for 90-minutes during which time the roof was closed only fot the court itself to refuse to cooperate and dry out. Humidity was the alleged culprit and before play resumed there was a lengthy period where referee Gerry Armstrong and his officials were joined by Djokovic and Cachin to discuss the problem and use towels in attempts to help the drying process. Then, as both players and officials wandered around testing the grass, the court was swept and hot blowers were brought into action.


Novak Djokovic inspects the the court with referee Gerry Armstrong watching

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Eventually the roof was re-opened and the court immediately responded by losing its slippery feel.

Usually once the roof is closed, it remains that way until the bitter end but that only applies if play has started. In this case it hadn’t.

“Pedro served especially well in the third set,” Djokovic said following his win. “For me, the opening match is always a little bit tricky. Grass takes a bit more time than any other surface to adapt. Hopefully the level of tennis will elevate with each match.”

His fans will agree as he remains the player to beat.

Upsets are hoped for in the opening round and Casper Ruud, the likeable Norwegian seeded fourth, came close to providing it as he held off the powerful serving of French qualifier Laurent Lokoli.

In the event, Felix Auger-Aliassime was the only top player to fall, downed by Lucky Loser Michael Mmoh of the US 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-4 after four hours and 7-minutes. For the Canadian 11thseed, the loss was his second opening round defeat having also lost in the French Opener, but he is still working his way back to fitness following tendon damage.


Casper Ruud gets through in four sets

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Ruud, however, isn’t that enamoured of the natural surface as the majority of his titles earned on clay, would suggest.

But he held his nerve to nullify the Lokoli bazooka like serves where the sound of his strikes cracked like rifle shots around the arena under the roof of No.1 Court.

Ruud eventually prevailed 6-1 5-7 6-4 6-3 and was rather pleased with himself, declaring: “It was great fun!”

But, with a 1-3 win-loss record at SW19, he remained realistic, adding: “I take every match as an underdog at Wimbledon. haven’t got the perfect game to play on grass, but today I think I did quite well. I consider many other players favourite to do well here before myself.

“So, I’m just going to try to play loose, not with too much pressure and just enjoy every time I get to step out on the most beautiful tennis courts in the world.”


Liam Broady leads the British charge

Michael Regan/Getty Images

He faces Britain’s Liam Broady in round two, who put up a tremendous performance to defeat Frenchman Constant Lestienne 6-1 6-3 7-5 and then attributed his win to his favourite football club, the treble winning Manchester City.

“I read a book recently, called ‘Pep: The Evolution’ and I find that stuff fascinating. Elite sport and business, there are interchangeable things that you can take from anything,” the 29-year-old from Stockport said, revealing also that the club keep track of him and are very supportive.

British success wasn’t just limited to him as Jan Choinski joined him in the second round following his own excellent performance against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic.

The son of a Southampton born German ballerina and a Polish father, Choinski switched his allegiance to Britain in 2019 and, aged 27, he is only now showing his true potential having been held back by illness and surgery.

His 5-7 7-6(4) 6-2 6-2 victory over the experienced and powerful Serbian on his debut at Wimbledon will have done him a power of good and it is ironic that he faces Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, in round two after the Pole had progressed comfortably past Spain’s veteran Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-1 6-4 6-4.

The third Brit in action on day one was Dan Evans but his match with Frenchman Quentin Halys was suspended overnight by bad light with him trailing two sets to love. The break hopefully, will reinvigorate him but he obviously now has a big uphill struggle.


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