Wimbledon: Defending champion Novak Djokovic books safe passage into the second round

Novak Djokovic is safely through to round two at The All England Club after having the honor of opening proceedings on Centre Court for the third time as defeated Britain’s James Ward 6-0, 7-6(3), 6-4.

The defending champion starts as if he has never been away

The world number one opened his title defense with a hold to love before securing a break of serve after a couple of double faults from the Brit. The world number 177 had 0-40 on the Serb’s serve after hitting a superb backhand crosscourt passing shot. Djokovic did what he does best and protected his serve, finding timely first serves to get to deuce and then saving a fourth break point before holding for a 3-0 lead.

Anther couple of game points came and went for Ward in his second service game, but history repeated itself as Djokovic broke and held once more for 5-0. The British number five then played a horrendous service game, hitting three double faults as the pressure mounted to surrender the set 6-0 after 28 minutes.

Ward’s comeback falls short

After Djokovic held another easy service game, the Serb went to work on Ward’s serve once again. The world number one put away a forehand winner on break point to move 3-0 in front yet again.

The Centre Court crowd gave their largest cheer of the match so far in the fourth game of the set as Ward fired down a second serve ace to get a game on the board in the match. That hold proved to be a turning point for the time being as the Brit moved up 0-40 on the world number one’s serve for the second time. However, on this occasion, the world number 177 got the break back before leveling the score at three games all.

James Ward was playing out on Centre Court for the first time and reached the third round here last year. Photo: Getty
James Ward was playing out on Centre Court for the first time and reached the third round here last year. Photo: Getty

In the eighth game, Djokovic failed to capitalize on three break points at 0-40, much to his frustration, as Ward pulled level again. The warning signs were flashing for the world number one as he had to face three break points in the eleventh game. Yet, some fine serving from the Serb recovered the situation to move 6-5 in front.

Ward, who was playing the world number one for the first time, fell 0-15 and 15-30 behind but came up with two aces out wide to stay in touch, before holding to take us into a second set tiebreak. The world number one claimed an early mini break and took control, moving 5-1 in front at the change of ends. After Ward pulled his crosscourt backhand wide that marked the end of the set, sealing it for the defending champion 7-6(3).

Djokovic regains control

Djokovic made a pivotal breakthrough in the third game and looked likely to move up a double break in the Brit’s next service game, but the world number 177 held on. The Serb was pushed to deuce on serve in game eight but held to move just one away from the win. The world number one secured victory on serve with an ace to complete a straight-sets win 6-0, 7-6(3), 6-4 in two hours and three minutes.

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