Wimbledon first round preview: Novak Djokovic vs James Ward

Novak Djokovic enters Wimbledon as the top seed, the two-time defending champion, and for the first time playing at the third slam of the year, he is the French Open champion.

Djokovic finally got his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires defeating Andy Murray in the final, the trophy he was craving for, an obsession since 2012 as he had already claimed the other three Grand Slam by then.

The world number one has not tasted defeat at a Grand Slam since he lost to Stan Wawrinka in four sets in the final of last year's French Open.

Since that defeat to Wawrinka which had him in tears, the top seed is currently on a 28 match winning streak at slams, as he has Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and the French Open in his possession. The Serb has the privilege of being the first man to hold all slams since Rod Laver in 1969, and Djokovic could be the first man to have five consecutive slams if he retains his Wimbledon title in a fortnight.

James Ward, currently the British number five ranked at 177, is known for his Davis Cup heroics and he made the third round of Wimbledon last year benefitting from David Ferrer's late withdrawal from the tournament but and he subsequently lost to Vasek Pospisil.

Djokovic's possible route to the final

Djokovic kissing the Wimbledon Gentlemen's singles title following his win over Roger Federer last year (Photo by Shaun Botterill / Source : Getty Images)
wDjokovic kissing the Wimbledon Gentlemen's singles title following his win over Roger Federer last year (Photo by Shaun Botterill / Source : Getty Images)

The defending Wimbledon champion as the top seed is drawn in the top half of the draw and he could play a couple of Brits in his opening round matches.

James Ward is his first opponent, Kyle Edmund who gave Djokovic a good match at the Miami Open earlier this year is his possible second round opponent and giant-killer Lukas Rosol or dangerous 28th seeded American Sam Querrey are his projected third round opponents.

In the fourth round, the world number one could have his hands full with 2012 quarterfinalist Philipp Kohlschreiber or the declining David Ferrer.

Sixth seed Milos Raonic, under the tutelage of former three-time champion John McEnroe is his projected quarterfinal opponent, and if both players make it, Djokovic could be on a collision course with seven-time champion Roger Federer.

The Serb has got the better of Federer in the last two editions of Wimbledon, culminating in the final, but the Swiss maestro beat Djokovic the last time they met in a Wimbledon semifinal back in 2012 en route to his latest major.

In the final, Djokovic is most likely to face 2013 champion Andy Murray. The pair contested the first two major finals this year and the two of them have been the stand out players of 2016, justifying their top two seedings. Nick Kyrgios, Richard Gasquet or Stan Wawrinka are others to consider as potential finalists for Djokovic.

Summary of Ward's season so far 

James Ward in day one action of the Aegon Open in Nottingham (Photo by Daniel Smith / Source : Getty Images)
James Ward in day one action of the Aegon Open in Nottingham (Photo by Daniel Smith / Source : Getty Images)

The local player, Ward, is entering his seventh main draw appearance at Wimbledon but not on his own terms, this is the seventh time that the tournament has given him a wildcard into the main draw.

Ward has not won a main draw match all year as he has suffered loses in qualifying for Chennai, Dubai, the Miami Open, Stuttgart and both slams the Australian Open and French Open.

The Brit was given a wildcard at the Aegon Open in Nottingham and at the Queen's Club, but wasted them as he suffered disappointing losses to Malek Jaziri and Gilles Muller respectively.

Speaking to the media ahead of  his match, the Brit said "It's not ideal, but in some ways it is. It will be a great experience and something that doesn't happen to many people, to open the tournament playing against one of the greatest players of all time and the current world number one. It doesn't get much better than that."

Head-to-head

This is the first meeting between Djokovic and Ward and the world number one will come into this clash as the overwhelming favorite.

Match analysis

Djokovic is unbeatable at the moment at Grand Slams, although he is more vulnerable at the earlier rounds of slams. Last year at Wimbledon he had to come back from 2 sets to love down to take out Kevin Anderson, and at the Australian Open this year, Gilles Simon took him to five sets.

For Ward to have any chance of winning this match, he will have to finish off the points quickly because he will not want to be engaging in long baseline rallies with Djokovic as there is only one winner in that department.

The world number one has a big serve and a powerful forehand which works well on the grass and he could use it effectively against Ward.

The Serb will create plenty break points in this match and the pressure will be on Ward.

The Centre Court crowd will be firmly behind Ward and they will be playing every shot with him, which will get under the skin of Djokovic as he doesn't like it when crowds are against him.

Djokovic should win this match easily and he will be motivated to get through this week with plenty of energy in the tank as he is chasing his 13th Grand Slam title to put him one behind Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras in the all-time list.

For the third time in his Wimbledon career, Djokovic will open up proceedings at 1pm local time as the Gentlemen's singles champion plays the first match on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Prediction: Djokovic to win in straight sets.

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