WIMBLEDON – Novak Djokovic’s game wasn’t particularly, well, Djokovic-esque, at Wimbledon on Monday.
Even he recognized it.
He was broken early and trailed 3-1 as he began his bid for a fourth consecutive championship and seventh overall in the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. He recovered to take that set, then gave up the next one. He slipped and fell in the grass. He accumulated more unforced errors than his opponent. Maybe he was a little under the weather; he grabbed some tissues from a black box on the sideline and blew his nose. Maybe he was just a bit off, having not played a game that counted for nearly a full month.
This, however, is top-seeded Djokovic, and there’s a reason he’s extended his winning streak at the All England Club to 22, and his career win tally to 80 – making him the first ever player to the history of tennis with at least as many victories. at every major – beating Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at Center Court under the retractable roof.
And there’s a reason why friends of Kwon’s coach wife, Daniel Yoo, held up decorated signs at a club of players’ guests bearing Korean messages which Yoo said meant “Fight! ” and “Don’t get hurt!”
So Kwon walked onto the court nervously. But after just two games, Kwon, ranked 81st, said through Yoo’s translation, “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, it’s doable. … I can hang out with him for a bit.’”
With the exception of a loss for No.7 seed Hubert Hurkacz, a semi-finalist at the All England Club a year ago, Day 1 signaled a fairly routine return to pre-pandemic normalcy, with capacity crowds, zero masks, the full effect Wimbledon queue and, of course, intermittent showers.
Hurkacz, fresh off winning a grass court title this weekend, lost 7-6(4), 6-4, 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (10-8) to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in a match featuring Wimbledon’s newest player. Final set format: Women’s third sets and men’s fifth sets that reach 6 all will go to a tiebreaker first to 10 and win by two.
It might as well be called John Isner’s rule, due to the American’s 70-68 fifth-set win over Nicolas Mahut in 2010 and 26-24 fifth-set loss to Kevin Anderson in 2018, all two at Wimbledon, both before the tournament was adopted. decisive tiebreakers.
On Monday, Isner was back on court 18, the Mahut marathon site, and hit 54 aces in a 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3, 7 win. -5 on Enzo Couacaud. Isner’s next match will be on a bigger court, as he faces Andy Murray, who has won two of his three major championships at Wimbledon.
Murray’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over James Duckworth came at Center Court and followed another triumph there by a British Major title winner, the defending champion ‘US Open Emma Raducanu.
“From the moment I walked through those doors I could really feel the energy and the support and everyone was behind me from the word ‘go’,” Raducanu, 19, said after beating Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4. , 6-4. “I just really tried to cherish every point there. I played every point like it could have been one of my last on that court.
Djokovic, a 35-year-old Serbian, hadn’t played since losing to rival Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarter-finals and it seemed to show. Kwon’s piercing, flat and soft groundstrokes were effective for the stretches.
“I didn’t start or play at my best,” said Djokovic, whose 20 Grand Slam trophies are tied with Roger Federer for the second most in men’s tennis history. behind Nadal’s 22. “But I think when I needed to find the right shots, I did. I think (my) serve pulled me through in decisive moments. I know I can do better.”
Also keep in mind that this could very well be Djokovic’s last major event this season – and for another 11 months, until the 2023 French Open.
As it stands, he will not be allowed to enter the United States as a foreigner who has not received his COVID-19 vaccines and is due to miss the US Open, which begins in August. He could also end up not attending a second consecutive Australian Open because he is not vaccinated – a status he said on Saturday he would not consider changing.
After Monday’s game, Djokovic said he wasn’t thinking about New York at the moment, but added: “Hopefully some things can change and I can go and compete. I would like.”
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