Novak Djokovic begins his hunt for a sixth Wimbledon title on Monday afternoon when he takes on Jack Draper in the first official match on Centre Court for two years. The World No.1 is the heavy favourite to win the tournament, which would create a three way tie for most slams with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both on 20 right now.
Djokovic has not played any grass court singles this month, focusing on preparing for the event in other ways following his French Open title earlier in the month. However, the Serbian was a surprise finalist in the Mallorca Open doubles event but an injury to teammate Carlos Gomez-Herrera saw them give a walkover in that match. It is nothing new for Djokovic to not play in the gap between Roland Garros and Wimbledon so he should remain fairly comfortable on the surface, which has played to his strengths the more grass became similar to other courts.
Draper is one of a few highly rated British up and comers but does lack experience of playing at the highest level. Getting a wildcard at the Miami Open showed there are many with high hopes for him but he failed to complete the match there, retiring after a set. His performances at ITF level of the past 18 months have shown he is ready to take a step up from there but few may have expected his run to the quarter finals at Queens. He kept his nerve in four consecutive tie breaks to beat Alexander Bublik and Jannik Sinner, two scalps that definitely can’t be scoffed at. He lost to Cameron Norrie in the next match but showed he would not have just been in this draw to make up the numbers but is rather one to watch for the future.
Djokovic has not lost a set in the opening round here for 11 years and that is a record you would expect to continue unless something bizarre happens. The World No.1 remains incredibly difficult to trouble over the five set format and is going to have far too much in every aspect of his game for the inexperienced Draper to contend with.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in straight sets