03 July 2023

Novak Djokovic eases to opening Wimbledon win after farcical delay

03 July 2023

Novak Djokovic eased into the second round of Wimbledon amid farcical scenes on Centre Court.

The four-time defending champion defeated Argentinian debutant Pedro Cachin 6-3 6-3 7-6 (4) but the clash was delayed for nearly an hour and a half after the first set because of a damp court despite the roof being deployed.

Djokovic had begun to complain about the surface but officials waited until the end of the set to cover the court, which proved to be a major error.

While play resumed under the roof on Court One, Djokovic and Cachin came out to inspect the court with referee Gerry Armstrong, but it was clear the world number two in particular was not happy.

Playing in his first official match on the surface since last year, it was no surprise that Djokovic, who described trying to move on grass in the early stages of the tournament as “like walking on eggs”, was being extremely cautious.

The Serbian maintained good humour about the situation and re-emerged with a towel, which he proceeded to rub on the court to laughter from the crowd, before members of the ground staff used leaf blowers to try to dry the surface.

But it was not until the skies cleared and the roof was opened again that play was able to resume, rendering the expensive covering redundant.

“It was definitely frustrating for the crowd waiting for us, and us players,” said Djokovic. “We both wanted to play but the conditions were not great, obviously still slippery under the roof.

“Once the roof was open it was a different story. This is the temple of tennis. I normally come out with rackets not with towels but it was fun to do something different.”

Had it not been for the delay, this would have been pretty much the ideal start to Djokovic’s campaign for a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title and eighth Wimbledon crown.

Cachin only played his first tour-level match on grass in Majorca last week and was never likely to prove too much of a test.

There was some early rust from Djokovic, who double-faulted to give Cachin a break for 2-1, but he hit straight back and manoeuvred himself into a 5-3 lead.

Djokovic is now on a 29-match winning streak on grass having not lost on the surface since a final defeat at Queen’s Club back in 2018.

He convincingly won the second set but Cachin earned applause from his opponent for his efforts in the third, which he pushed to a tie-break.

Djokovic had won all his tie-breaks at the French Open without making a single unforced error. That streak ended with a double fault here, and he netted a backhand on his first match point, but he took his third chance, winning it 7-4.

I normally come out with rackets not with towels but it was fun to do something different.

Stiffer tests will surely await, perhaps in the second round against Australian grass-court lover Jordan Thompson, but the defending champion is off and running.

Djokovic has not lost on Centre Court since his final defeat to Andy Murray in 2013, and he said: “What a second home to have, it doesn’t get much better than Wimbledon.

“I try to not take any match, any minute that I spend on the court for granted.

“Opening matches are always a little bit tricky. It takes a little bit more time than any other surface to adapt but I’ve managed it pretty well in recent years. Hopefully each match the level of tennis will elevate.”

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