These days, Novak Djokovic makes history just about every time he wins another match. On Monday, the top-ranked Serb did just that at Wimbledon.
Djokovic, a six-time champion at the All England Club, beat Kwon Soon-woo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court, his 80th victory at the grass-court major. With it, he became the first man or woman to win that many matches at each of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments.
“It’s always very unique match to play as the defending champion, first on the grass,” said Djokovic, who won his 22nd straight match at the tournament. “Other than this year that Wimbledon made a change so you could practice before the tournament starts, it was always coming out on the untouched grass. It’s really a unique and special feeling in our sport.”
Djokovic was playing for the first time since losing to Rafael Nadal last month in the French Open quarter-finals.
It didn’t all go his way on Monday, however.
With the roof closed because of sporadic rain, Kwon was able to pick his spots with his booming forehand. It all came together in the second set, and even continued into the third, but Djokovic stepped it up and played like he usually plays in southwest London – unbeatable.
Djokovic has won the last three Wimbledon titles and is going for his seventh overall. That would put him in a tie for the second most with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. Only Roger Federer, with eight, has more.
Another major title would give him 21 for his career. Nadal has 22, and Federer has 20.
Most of Djokovic’s Grand Slam singles championships have come at the Australian Open, where he is a nine-time champion. But he was unable to defend his title in Melbourne this year after being deported because of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination protocols.
Despite that issue, the crowd on Centre Court was happy to see him back at Wimbledon.
“I felt support,” said Djokovic, who may be banned from playing at the U.S. Open and again at the Australian Open because he is unvaccinated.
“I guess that motivates me more to try to make the most out of this tournament,” he said.
After Djokovic finished, Emma Raducanu took to Centre Court for the first time. The 19-year-old British player, who won the U.S. Open last year, was playing at the All England Club for the first time since retiring from her fourth-round match a year ago.
“It’s an incredibly special feeling to be coming back here to Wimbledon,” said the 10th-seeded Raducanu, who beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 6-4.
The first player to reach the second round was Alison Riske. The 28th-seeded American defeated Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland 6-2, 6-4.
Other seeded women who advanced were No. 2 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, No. 3 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, No. 24 Elise Mertens of Belgium and No. 29 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. Kalinina will face another Ukrainian, Lesia Tsurenko, in the second round.
Tsurenko’s match was halted for about 10 minutes when her opponent, British wild-card entry Jodie Burrage, stopped to help a ballboy who was feeling faint.
Burrage gave the boy a sports drink and nutritional gel before someone in the crowd passed her some chewy candy. The boy was soon helped off court.
French Open finalist Casper Ruud won his opening match on Court 12. The third-seeded Norwegian defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (1), 7-6 (9), 6-2.
Also in the men’s draw, No. 5 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, No. 9 Cam Norrie of Britain, No. 20 John Isner of the United States, No. 22 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, No. 23 Frances Tiafoe of the United States and No. 30 Tommy Paul of the United States advanced.
The highest seeded player to lose was No. 7 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. He was beaten by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-4, 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (10-8).