03 July 2023

Novak Djokovic’s first-round win raises concerns over Centre Court roof

03 July 2023

Wimbledon organisers face concerns over the Centre Court roof after Novak Djokovic’s first-round match against Pedro Cachin was delayed amid farcical scenes.

The four-time defending champion defeated Argentinian debutant 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.

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.

Djokovic said later: “I was communicating quite a lot out of the court with the supervisor and referee, and the chairman of the club came down as well. They were all a little bit confused because that’s something that they never experienced ever since the roof was installed on the Centre Court.

“Both of us players wanted to come out. We did several times to show to the crowd that we want to play, we want to be there. But it was just too many places on the court which were too slippery and really moist.

“It was very strange that for more than an hour the situation was not changing at all for the better. I think it was a good call from the chair umpire (to carry on). I don’t think it has gotten too much wet from that maybe extra minute and a half or something.

“We were lucky that rain stopped so we could resume play with an open roof. Hopefully they’ll fix it because that’s one of the only two courts that has a roof. If it starts raining, if you can’t play under the roof, that’s a little bit of an issue for the schedule.”

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.

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: “It was a solid performance. I’ve been in these situations before so hopefully, as the tournament progresses, I’ll raise my level as well.”

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