World No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic eased past wild card James Ward 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of Wimbledon on Monday.
The 29-year-old Serbian beat Ward of Great Britain in two hours and three minutes on the opening day at the All England Club. Djokovic had the honor of opening play on Centre Court as the men’s defending champion.
“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 after the match. “It’s really special to feel this tradition and history, to come back to the cradle of our sport. It was a wonderful experience.”
Roger Federer, owner of seven Wimbledon titles and 17 major championships overall, did not have an easy time in the first round but the 34-year-old Swiss beat 52nd-ranked Guido Pella of Argentina 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-3.
Federer, the No. 3 seed, missed the French Open, withdrawing before the tournament began last month because of a lingering back injury that ended his record streak of 65 consecutive appearances at majors.
Djokovic holds all four Grand Slam crowns at the same time and is attempting to join Don Budge as the second player in tennis history to win five straight majors. Budge won six successive titles between 1937 Wimbledon and the 1938 U.S. Championships.
Djokovic also is looking to complete a calendar Grand Slam, already having won the Australian and French Open in 2016. He is bidding for a 13th major championship overall.
Djokovic won the first nine games of the match Monday, losing just 13 points. Ward broke to 30 in the fifth game of a competitive second set, which saw Djokovic saved three break points at 5-5. Ward, ranked No. 177, was broken to 15 in the third game of the third set but held on in a 16-point fifth game. Djokovic has now won 45 of his 48 matches this year.
“I honestly didn’t expect myself to start that well,” Djokovic said. “Nine games in a row, 6-0, 3-0. I thought it was just a matter of time when James would win his first game. I knew that the reaction of the crowd, and his own reaction, will be the way it was.
“As a home player, he enjoyed a lot of support today, especially when he won his first game. That’s when the energy kind of shifted on his side. He felt huge relief obviously winning the first game. On the other hand, I maybe dropped the concentration a little bit. The second set was quite close. Credit to him for serving well. The first part of the match was almost flawless, so I’m very pleased with the way I started Wimbledon.”
Djokovic is 53-8 lifetime at the All England Club. He has spent a total of 205 weeks at No. 1.
Djokovic will next face France’s Adrian Mannarino, who hit 31 winners, including 12 aces, in a 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Kyle Edmund of Britain in two hours and three minutes.
Meanwhile, American Sam Querrey came back after losing the first two sets to pull out a stunning 12-10 victory in the fifth and reach the second round. The 28th-seeded Querrey ended the match with his 33rd ace, beating Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 6-7 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2, 12-10 in three hours and 22 minutes.
Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France beat No. 21 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to knock off the first seeded player. No. 20 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa lost in five sets to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan after taking the first two sets. Istomin won 4-6, 6-7 (13), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-3 in a match that last more than 3 1/2 hours.
Among the seeded men who advanced were: No. 5 Kei Nishikori of Japan; No. 6 Milos Raonic of Canada; former U.S. Open champion and No. 9 Marin Cilic of Croatia, who beat American Brian Baker 6-3, 7-5, 6-3; No. 11 David Goffin of Belgium; No. 13 David Ferrer of Spain; No. 16 Gilles Simon of France; No. 23 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia; and No. 27 Jack Sock, an American who beat Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
On the women’s side, five-time champion and eighth-seeded Venus Williams won her opening match, beating 20-year-old Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Vekic had two set points in the first set serving at 6-5 but lost both on errors as Williams ran through the tiebreaker.
In the second set, the 36-year-old Williams broke for 5-4 and served out in her 19th Wimbledon, a record among active players.
“I felt like I couldn’t hit a winner against her today, she ran everything down and played amazing tennis,” Williams said. “The first set, there were some hairy moments there, down some set points, but I guess that’s where experience sets in. I started to feel like maybe I had the chance to win the most important points.”
French Open champion and No. 2 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain was extended to three sets before beating Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 on Centre Court.
Muguruza lost in last year’s Wimbledon final to Serena Williams, who will face Swiss qualifier Amra Sadikovic in her opening match on Tuesday.
American Madison Keys, seeded No. 9, advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Laura Siegemund of Germany.
Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, seeded No. 23, blamed an injured right wrist after a 6-2, 7-5 loss against 21-year-old Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Sabine Lisicki of Germany also advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over American Shelby Rogers. Lisicki took one hour to beat the 62nd-ranked Rogers.
In the second round, Lisicki will face No. 14 seed Samantha Stosur of Australia, a 7-5, 6-3 winner over Magda Linette of Poland.
No. 4 Angelique Kerber of Germany, No. 5 Simona Halep of Romania, No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain also advanced.
No. 25 seed Irina Begu of Romania was ousted 6-1, 6-4 by Carina Witthoeft of Germany.