Novak Djokovic raced to a 6-0, 3-0 lead, then held firm the rest of the way as he opened his bid for a third consecutive Wimbledon title and fifth straight Grand Slam championship with a straight-sets victory over Britain’s James Ward on Monday.
In keeping with tradition, Djokovic played the first match on Centre Court as the men’s defending champion, and he won, 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-4, in just over two hours to extend his Grand Slam winning streak to 29 matches.
“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. “It’s really special to feel this tradition and history, to come back to the cradle of our sport. It was a wonderful experience.”
Djokovic holds all four Grand Slam titles. After winning the Australian and French titles, he’s also seeking to become the first man to capture the first three legs of a calendar-year Grand Slam since 1969, when Rod Laver swept all four majors.
Djokovic looked right back at home Monday as he ran off the first nine games against Ward, ranked 177th in the world and granted a wild-card entry into the grass-court event.
“Not much to say about my game, it was really flawless,” Djokovic said of the early going. “I felt great.”
When Ward finally won a game, hitting a service winner to make the score 3-1 in the second set, the Briton threw up his arm in mock triumph and basked in a loud ovation from the home crowd. Ward broke in the next game and the two players went to a tiebreaker, which Djokovic dominated to regain control.
While Djokovic reasserted the established order, a British qualifier ranked 772nd in the world and playing his first tour-level match shook things up on Day 1.
Marcus Willis, a 25-year-old left-hander who has been working as a tennis coach, stunned 53rd-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, in front of a wildly cheering crowd on Court 17.
When Willis held serve to close out the match, he ran to kiss his girlfriend and hug other friends and family in the stands. He picked up a hat thrown from the stands and put it on.
Willis saved 19 of 20 break points against Berankis, who was playing in his fourth Wimbledon and 15th Grand Slam event.
Willis won three matches in a special British Lawn Tennis Assn. event just to earn a wild card into qualifying for Wimbledon. He then won three qualifying matches to make it into the main draw.
His second-round opponent will be seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-3 winner over Guido Pella of Argentina.
French Open women’s champion Garbine Muguruza was extended to three sets by Italy’s Camila Giorgi before winning, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, in a match that lasted more than 21/2 hours.
Five-time women’s champion Venus Williams also had a stiff test, overcoming Donna Vekic of Croatia, 7-6 (3), 6-4, on Court 1.
In the tournament’s first big surprise, former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic was a 6-2, 7-5 loser against Ekaterina Alexandrova, a Russian qualifier ranked 223rd and paying in her first Grand Slam tournament.
Ivanovic, seeded 23rd, blamed an injured right wrist and said she wouldn’t play again until the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.