Following a nervous tie-break in the first round of this year’s French Open, world number one Novak Djokovic would have been forgiven for feeling a tad nervous at the prospect of a tricky first round draw against Juan Carlos Ferrero on Centre Court.
But then that coveted world number one spot isn’t handed out to just anyone, and Djokovic proved his credentials in a comfortable straight-sets victory over the 32-year-old Spaniard, beginning the defence of his Wimbledon title in some style.
Ferrero – an ex world number one himself – did manage to temporarily hold up the classy Serb. An early loss of serve and an embarrassing stumble from Djokovic in the first set handed Ferrero a 2-1 lead and left spectators wondering just how rusty Djokovic had become after a year away from grass court tennis.
Ferrero’s plucky display continued and the set was nicely poised at 3-3 with Djokovic next to serve. But while Ferrero tantalised and threatened an upset, Djokovic was planning his escape; two quick service games and a break left the Spaniard reeling and landed Djokovic the first set.
Ferrero’s challenge then faded completely in the second set under a flurry of irresistible Djokovic groundstrokes. The Spaniard’s undeniable finesse unfortunately no match for the power and placement of the Serb who was really beginning to enjoy himself out there on Centre Court.
Only a late hold in the third prevented Djokovic strolling to a final set whitewash. What had begun nervously enough for the Champ, ended as a leisurely jaunt on the fresh Centre Court turf.
Still, it’s difficult not to feel for Juan Carlos Ferrero. The Spaniard showed enough class and technical flair to have defeated the majority of first round opponents, but was instead handed a near impossible draw against one of the masters of this surface. Djokovic’s 34 winners – to Ferrero’s 15 – are a testament to his dominance on grass.
After the match, the Serb admitted to feeling nervous ahead of his tournament opener on Centre Court;
“In the opening games I missed some overheads and I was nervous,” he said. “It’s normal. I haven’t played an official match on grass for 12 months.”
In essence, Djokovic’s first game on grass since his emphatic Wimbledon win over Raphael Nadal on this very court twelve months ago was everything a top seed could want from an opener; a couple of nervey moments and a valiant challenge to blow the cobwebs away, followed by a swift move through the gears to an ultimately comfortable match point.
A meeting with the youthful American Ryan Harrison awaits Novak Djokovic in round two as his bid to retain the Wimbledon title continues.