London:World number one Novak Djokovic got his campaign for a third successive Wimbledon title off to a winning start with a 6-0, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 victory over Britain’s James Ward on Monday.
The 29-year-old Serb, the holder of 12 Grand Slams after clinching a first French Open earlier this month, is on target for the record books. A fourth Wimbledon title would make him just the second man since Don Budge in 1938 to win five straight majors.
It would also put him three-quarters of the way to becoming the first since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar Grand Slam. Top seed Djokovic, who holds all four majors, goes on to face France’s Adrian Mannarino for a place in the last 32.
“The first nine games were flawless,” said Djokovic, who raced out into a 6-0, 3-0 lead before Ward, ranked at 177, steadied the ship.
“James had a few nerves but he was playing better in the second set. Overall it was a solid performance for me. It’s always special to come back to the cradle of our sport.”
Djokovic has won six of the last eight Grand Slams, taking him to a career tally of 12 — within two of Rafael Nadal’s mark and five behind Roger Federer’s record.
Federer, whose last major triumph was at Wimbledon in 2012 when he won his seventh title at the All England Club, begins later Monday against Argentina’s world number 51 Guido Pella.
Federer, 34, has been runner-up to Djokovic for the last two years and is attempting to become the oldest ever Wimbledon champion in modern times.
But the Swiss has been dogged by knee and back problems this year and his injury-enforced withdrawal from the French Open ended his streak of 65 successive Grand Slam appearances stretching back to 1999.
He has since suffered semi-final losses on grass at Stuttgart and Halle, the last of which against Alexander Zverev was his first against a teenager in 10 years.
Federer’s failure to win a title in 2016 means he enters Wimbledon on his longest trophy drought since 2000. In early action Monday, five-time champion Venus Williams battled past Croatian teenager Donna Vekic 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.
Williams, 36, is the oldest woman in the main draw of this year’s tournament and first won Wimbledon in 2000 when Vekic was just four.
The world number eight, playing in a record-equalling 71st Grand Slam, will play Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari for a place in the third round. Former world number one Ana Ivanovic was knocked out, losing 6-2, 7-5 to Russian qualifier, Ekaterina Alexandrova, the world 223.
Ivanovic, the 2008 Roland Garros champion and a semi-finalist at the All England Club in 2007, suffered just her second opening round loss at Wimbledon in 12 visits.
Alexandrova, 21, is making her Grand Slam debut and had won just one match on the main tour in her entire career before Monday’s shock win over the 23rd seed. Ivanovic said she was suffering a right wrist injury and won’t play again until the Rio Olympics.
“I need to rest it and get and MRI scan. It’s harder on grass with the wrist like that because the balls skids through,” she said.
Croatian ninth seed and former US Open winner Marin Cilic saw off Brian Baker of the United States 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 and Spanish 13th seed David Ferrer was a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 winner over Israel’s Dudi Sela.
Women’s ninth seed Madison Keys was a 6-3, 6-1 victor over Germany’s Laura Siegemund. The Centre Court programme later Monday also sees women’s second seed and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza taking on Camila Giorgi, the world number 68 from Italy.
Muguruza was runner-up to Serena Williams last year. Giorgi reached the fourth round in 2012. On Court One, Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori, who has yet to get beyond the fourth round, takes on big-serving Australian Sam Groth.
Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber faces Britain’s Laura Robson in the same arena. Canadian sixth seed Milos Raonic, with John McEnroe in his corner, meets Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta as he looks to improve on his 2014 semi-final showing.