LONDON: World number one Novak Djokovic got his campaign for a third successive Wimbledon title off to a winning start with a 6-0, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 victory over Britain’s James Ward on Monday.
The 29-year-old Serb, the holder of 12 Grand Slams after clinching a first French Open earlier this month, is on target for the record books.
A fourth Wimbledon title would make him just the second man since Don Budge in 1938 to win five straight majors.
It would also put him three-quarters of the way to becoming the first since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
Top seed Djokovic, who holds all four majors, goes on to face France’s Adrian Mannarino for a place in the last 32.
“The first nine games were flawless,” said Djokovic, who raced out into a 6-0, 3-0 lead before Ward, ranked at 177, steadied the ship.
“James had a few nerves but he was playing better in the second set. Overall it was a solid performance for me. It’s always special to come back to the cradle of our sport.”
Five-time women’s champion Venus Williams, meanwhile, had a stiffer test, overcoming Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in the opening match on Court 1.
In the tournament’s first big surprise, former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic was beaten 6-2, 7-5 by Ekaterina Alexandrova, a Russian qualifier ranked 223rd and making her Grand Slam debut.
Among the seeded men who advanced were Croatian ninth seed and former US Open winner Marin Cilic, Spanish 13th seed David Ferrer and No 23 Ivo Karlovic.
Sam Querrey, an American seeded 28th, overcame Lukas Rosol in a marathon match that went to 12-10 in the fifth set.
The first seeded player ousted was No 21 Philipp Kohlschreiber, who fell in four sets to Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Kevin Anderson, a South African seeded 20th, lost later in five sets to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in a match that lasted more than three hours.
Women’s ninth seed Madison Keys was a 6-3, 6-1 victor over Germany’s Laura Siegemund.
Other winners included 14th seed Samantha Stosur and former finalist Sabine Lisicki, while 25th-ranked Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania was ousted in straight sets by Carina Witthoeft of Germany.