Djokovic wins opener; as does British 772nd-ranked qualifier
LONDON (AP) — 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-set 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 (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.
Djokovic looked right back at home Monday as he ran off the first nine games against Ward, ranked 177th in the world and granted a wild-card entry into the grass-court Grand Slam.
“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 re-establish control.
While Djokovic reasserted the established order, a British qualifier ranked 772nd in the world and playing his first tour-level match shook things up on Day 1.
Marcus Willis, a 25-year-old lefthander who has been working as a tennis coach, stunned 53rd-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in front of a wildly cheering crowd on tiny Court 17.
When Willis held serve to close out the match, he ran to kiss his girlfriend and hug other friends and family in the stands. He picked up a hat thrown from the stands and put it on.
Willis saved 19 of 20 break points against Berankis, who was playing in his fourth Wimbledon and 15th Grand Slam.
Willis won three matches in a special British Lawn Tennis Association event just to earn a wild card into qualifying for Wimbledon. He then won three all three qualifying matches to make it into the main draw.
Willis’ likely second-round opponent: Roger Federer, the seven-time champion who was playing a late match against Argentina’s Guido Pella.
French Open women’s champion Garbine Muguruza was extended to three sets by Italy’s Camila Giorgi before winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in a match that lasted more than 2 ½ hours.
The match was effectively decided in the third game of the final set, which lasted more than 10 minutes and included five deuces and six break points. Muguruza broke for a 2-1 lead when Giorgi hit a forehand into the net.
Five-time women’s champion Venus Williams also had a stiff test, overcoming Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6 (3), 6-4 on Court 1.
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.
“I felt like I couldn’t hit a winner against her today, she ran everything down and played amazing tennis,” the eighth-seeded Williams said. “The first set, there were some hairy moments there, down some set points, but I guess that’s where experience sets in.”
In the tournament’s first big surprise, former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic was beaten 6-2, 7-5 by Ekaterina Alexandrova, a Russian qualifier ranked 223rd and making her Grand Slam debut.
The 23rd-seeded Ivanovic blamed an injured right wrist, and said she won’t play between now and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
Among the seeded men who advanced: No. 5 Kei Nishikori, No. 6 Milos Raonic, No. 9 Marin Cilic, No. 11 David Goffin, No. 13 David Ferrer, No. 16 Gilles Simon, No. 23 Ivo Karlovic and No. 27 Jack Sock. Sam Querrey, an American seeded No. 28, overcame Lukas Rosol in a marathon match that went to 12-10 in the fifth set.
The first seeded player ousted was No. 21 Philipp Kohlschreiber, who fell in four sets to Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Kevin Anderson, a South African seeded 20th, lost later in five sets to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
Women’s winners included No. 4 Angelique Kerber, No. 5 Simona Halep, No. 9 Madison Keys, No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro, No. 14 Samantha Stosur and former finalist Sabine Lisicki.