World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had to dig deep and work his way around a first-set deficit to thump British wild card Jack Draper in the remaining sets in Wimbledon on Monday. The Serbian began his title defence, beating 19-year-old Draper 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in front of 7,000 spectators on Centre Court. The five-time champion Djokovic is bidding to level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Fresh from winning the French Open title in sensational fashion, Djokovic will be the clear favourite to lift the coveted trophy in London.
“It feels great seeing everyone and being back on probably the most special, the most sacred tennis court in the world,” said Djokovic, in an on-court interview. “Obviously, alongside many other players, I was very sad last year that Wimbledon was cancelled. [It was] very difficult times for everyone, but I’m really glad that the sport is back and hopefully you guys have enjoyed it and you will enjoy it in the next couple of weeks.”
“To be honest, I don’t recall falling this many times on the court,” said Djokovic. “[It was] obviously a huge honour to walk onto this court, for me at least the most special court. I always dreamed of playing at Wimbledon [and] winning Wimbledon one day when I was a kid growing up in Serbia.”
The Serbian, who won the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year, had a slow start to the match. Draper, on the other hand, started briskly and did not appear to be fazed when facing the top seed. The World No. 253 took advantage of Djokovic’s early errors to gain a break. Draper was then under pressure, but he saved seven break points across three of his five service games to bag the 37-minute opener.
From there on it was one-way traffic. The Serbian regrouped himself as he walked past his opponent with little difficulty in the remaining sets. The dominance was such that Djokovic lost only five games in the remaining three sets combined. Djokovic sealed a 2-1 lead in the fourth set and soon turned it into a 4-1 advantage. The World No.1 had hardly any trouble in seeing out the match from that point onwards.
“He definitely deserves a round of applause,” said Djokovic. “He’s a youngster, only 19. [I] hadn’t seen him play too much prior to the Queen’s tournament, [where] he played pretty well and won a couple of matches against higher-ranked players.
“Walking onto Wimbledon’s Centre Court for him for the first time, I think he has done extremely well. He carried himself very maturely on the court. I think he behaved well, he backed himself, he believed that he could come back, and he deserves credit for that. I wish him all the best for the rest of his career.”
Djokovic will next play either former World No. 5 Kevin Anderson, who he defeated in the 2018 Wimbledon final, or Chilean qualifier Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera. Djokovic leads Anderson 9-2 in their ATP head-to-head series. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Draper was making his Grand Slam main draw debut on Monday.