It was a different Novak Djokovic who appeared on Centre Court for his second match than the one who opened proceedings last Monday – this time it was more like the defending champion rather than the seemingly nervous character who opened his campaign two days ago.
It was not easy to serve because of the wind but from my side overall it was a really high-quality performance and I’m very pleased Novak Djokovic
Not so the third seeded Casper Ruud who, after battling through his opening round in straight sets, looked to have found some affinity for grass, crashed out to the talented Ugo Humbert on his second appearance of the week.
Djokovic dictated proceedings from the opening moment to defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-1 6-4 6-2. The Australian, who has suffered a series of injuries over the past few years, was making a very welcome return to higher levels of the game.
However in Djokovic, he met a brick wall which he was unable to penetrate as the Serbian basically improved his win record on the Tour to 1007 matches won.
On this occasion he produced 29 winners to 14 unforced errors.
“I’m very happy with my performance today. I thought I started with well, I was very solid from the back of the court,” the top seed said.
“I tried to make him work a lot around the court and brought a lot of variety into the game.
“It was not easy to serve because of the wind but from my side overall it was a really high-quality performance and I’m very pleased.”
And he should be.
From the start he applied the pressure forcing Kokkinakis into errors to sweep into a 3-0 lead and a couple of games later, he made it two breaks with a delicate drop shot which he followed up by pocketing the opening set with another drop shot.
In the second he broke early as the Australian struggled in the windy conditions allowing Djokovic to maintain his momentum but kept himself in contention when serving to stay in the set by saving three break points when 3-5 down. Inevitably it seemed, Djokovic claimed it in the next game.
By now Kokkinakis was looking punch drunk especially after he dropped his serve yet again after battling for 12-minutes to try and hold it at the start of the third!
And it wasn’t long before Djokovic was able to stroll into the second round where he takes on his compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, a 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3 winner over Alejandro Tabilo of Chile.
Meanwhile playing at the same time on Court No.2, Casper Ruud, was being beaten by the Frenchman Ugo Humbert who unlike the Norwegian third seed, has some affinity for the natural surface though he arrived for the match without his rackets, apologising for the omission which was rectified by his team a few moments later when they handed him three!
“I love to play on grass. I have played a lot of good matches (on grass),” Humbert said after his 3-6 6-2 7-5 6-4 latest success.
“I think about the match last year against (Nick) Kyrgios. It was a big battle.
“I (have) won Halle, so I think I play very nice (on grass) because of my serve, and my backhand is very great.”
Ruud will no doubt agree the Frenchman has a game well suited for Wimbledon despite gaining the early initiative by winning the first set but it had taken Humbert that long to warm up for, once he found his rhythm, he delighted the crowd with some excellent tennis to pull himself level.
He took every opportunity to come forward where he was very comfortable.
At a set-all the early stages of the third proved crucial for both players. Ruud broke early but Humber broke back. With both players urging themselves on the likelihood of the Norwegian counterpuncher quelling the aggressive serve and volleyer seemed very unlikely especially when Humbert secured a break with a one of favoured backhands in the fifth game.
It was the same scenario in the fourth with Ruud holding three break points and failing to convert any of them.
Ruud faltered delivering a double fault when serving at 4-4 to gift a break point which was eagerly seized by the Frenchman with one of his back hand shots and then ease into round three here he will face Belgium’s David Goffin who eliminated Argentina’s Sebastian Baez 6-1 6-2 6-4..