Wimbledon 2016: Djokovic begins the hunt for yet another title

The top seed saw off a second set fight back from Britain's James Ward to win in straight sets

Wimbledon 2016: Djokovic begins the hunt for yet another title
Novak Djokovic was in great form as he shook off any thoughts of rustiness. (Picture from Sky Sports)

There isn’t a week which goes by on the tennis calendar when people aren’t talking about Novak Djokovic breaking yet more records.

Three weeks ago he became the first tennis player ever to earn $100 million after capturing his maiden French Open title at Roland Garros.

This fortnight the ominous world number one has his sights on a third consecutive Wimbledon title, a landmark only Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Björn Borg have achieved in the open era.   

If the Serb was to claim another title at SW19 in a fortnight’s time then attentions would immediately turn to the US Open in August, where he could become the first man ever to win all four majors in the same year.

For now Djokovic’s title defence at SW19 is once again underway after he defeated Britain’s James Ward 6-0 7-6(3) 6-4 in the opening round.

The first set may have been something of a hiding for the current British number five, yet Ward’s spirit in the second and third was something to be admired.

And while Djokovic is currently picking up pay cheque after pay cheque, which comes from being the very best in your sport. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are certainly no such riches in the neck of the woods where Ward is playing his tennis right now.

Tough start for Ward

Britain's James Ward (Picture from Sky Sports)
Britain's James Ward (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Brit may have recorded his best Grand Slam result at the All England Club when he reached the third round last year, however a series of injuries and tough defeats have seen him plummet down to 177 in the world.

At that level he has played just two main draw ATP matches all year, and that showed in the early exchanges - in which Djokovic showed no mercy.

After holding to love in the opening game, the Serb was then gifted the first break of the match when Ward served two double faults in the second.

One by one the games the games began to assemble into Djokovic’s deep pockets and after holding from 0-40 in the third game, he quickly made it nine games in a row to lead 6-0 3-0.

At that stage Ward was a mere shadow of the player who had beaten the likes of Sam Querrey and John Isner in the Davis Cup in recent years.

His first serve percentage dwindled at around 30 per cent mark throughout the opening set, which was concluded with another double fault, and suddenly the prospect of a first match on Centre Court for the Londoner was looking rather daunting.

Brit gains momentum

And yet in in the role of the traditional plucky Brit, Ward came roaring back to force second set tie break.

His first game of the match was greeted by the biggest cheer of the match from an anticipated home crowd and prompted Ward to throw his arms in the air - in sheer relief more than anything else.

With the monkey of a potential humiliation off his back, Ward was suddenly able open up his shoulders and it’s amazing what that feeling can do for a player of Ward’s ranking.

He broke Djokovic for the first time before levelling up at 3-3 and managed to turn the second set into a completely different proposition compared to that of the first.

With the shackles now off Ward went on the attack and with the crowd behind him his confidence began to brim.

Djokovic weathers the storm

Djokovic saved two break points when serving at 5-5, a slip up from the world number one at that stage would have made proceedings interesting indeed.

But as he so often does the world number one saved his best tennis for the big moments and never looked like losing a one sided tie break.

An early break of serve in the third was enough for Djokovic to complete an expected straight sets victory in 2 hours and 3 minutes.

The Serb will take on Adrian Mannarino of France in the second round after he defeated home favourite Kyle Edmund on court two.