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.
In early action Monday, five-time champion Venus Williams battled past Croatian teenager Donna Vekic 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.
Williams, 36, is the oldest woman in the main draw of this year’s tournament and first won Wimbledon in 2000 when Vekic was just four.
The world number eight, playing in a record-equalling 71st Grand Slam, will play Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari for a place in the third round. However, former world number one Ana Ivanovic was knocked out, losing 2-6, 5-7 to Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova, the world 223.
Ivanovic, the 2008 Roland Garros champion and a semifinalist at the All England Club in 2007, suffered just her second opening round loss at Wimbledon in 12 visits.
Alexandrova, 21, is making her Grand Slam debut and had won just one match on the main tour in her entire career before Monday’s shock win over the 23rd seed.
Ivanovic said she was suffering a right wrist injury and won’t play again until the Rio Olympics.
“I need to rest it and get and MRI scan. It’s harder on grass with the wrist like that because the balls skids through,” she said.
The 28-year-old Serb blamed her loss on the wrist injury. “It was very hard to accelerate on my forehand. I tried to do everything possible to be fit and recover and tape it and so on,” said Ivanovic.
Ivanovic admitted that she had considered pulling out of Wimbledon after the wrist became inflamed when she was playing at the Mallorca warm-up event.