Wimbledon: Djokovic wins, Venus Williams advances on opening day
It was a moment of history for British player, James Ward, who entered as a wildcard, got placed in the slot to play the opening match against defending champion and world number one, Novak Djokovic. Much was made of the fact that his father is a taxi driver in London. That is likely to be the lasting import of the debut on Centre Court of the 29-year-old, who is 117 in the world.
The jitters of the arena got to him and he fell behind 0-5 in the first set. Serving to register on the scoreboard, 0-5, he committed a double fault to face three break points and eventually handed the game and set to Djokovic on a double fault. The set lasted a little over 27 minutes.
In the second set, Djokovic held and broke Ward to lead 3-0 in games. In the fourth, a successful challenge gave him two game points at 40-15, but he was forced to deuce. A few points later, at game point, a hard drive deep to the baseline skimmed the tip of Djokovic’s racket and Ward had his first game of the match. He raised his hands up in celebration and was joined by the partisan and hopeful crowd. In the fifth game, Djokovic lost the first point. Ward ran down a drop shot and sent it cross-court past the world number. It was 0-30; then 0-40. A missed forehand reduced the threat of service break. A net-cord on return of serve landed short and Djokovic hit the ball over Ward’ baseline for the game.
In the sixth game, Ward delivered three consecutive service winners to lead 40-0. Djokovic reduced it with a service return winner. At 40-30, Ward hit a drop shot that Djokovic reached and angled it cross court; but Ward ran and sent it for a winner into an empty court to level at three games apiece.
Djokovic held serve to lead 4- 30. In his service game, Ward fell behind 0-40 but came up an ace and a service winner to deuce before taking the game on his first advantage point. The Champion raised his game and took the ninth game. Ward needed to win his serve to save the set and he did it with brilliant serving that featured an ace, and a long rally that was netted by Djokovic. The 11th game provided great drama. Serving with new balls, lost the first point and at 30-all, an unforced error placed in danger of service break but he cancelled with a well-placed ace timed at just 104 mph. On the first deuce point, Ward hit a perfect drop shot that did not rise from the turf. It was cancelled, as was the second on a service return error by Ward. Djokovic survived a third advantage out and clinched the game on his first opportunity by hitting an overhead smash.
Although he was behind 15-30, Ward delivered his seventh ace to level in points. He had a game point at 40-30 but was forced to deuce. However, a service winner down the middle and crosscourt backhand winner gave him the 12th game. Djokovic took the opening point on his serve but Ward lost one point on serve for a mini-break. Djokovic won three points in arrow for a 5-1lead that he retained to win the tie-break seven points to three.
In the third set, Ward won his serve in the first game without dropping a point, sealing it with his eighth ace of the match. Djokovic leveled, in like fashion, with well-placed shots. Ward lost his serve to hand Djokovic a break for a 2-1 lead that was consolidated for 3-1. In the fifth game, Ward lost three advantage points before clinching the game on his fourth opportunity. After a little over seven minutes. Djokovic held to lead 4-2 and Ward reduced the score to 4-3. Both players held their serves to 5-4. Serving for the set, Djokovic dropped only one point and delivered an ace at game point to win the set and match; 6/0; 7/6; 6/4 in two hours and three minutes. As he walked off the court, James Ward waved to an applauding audience and clapped. Djokovic also clapped in celebration of the moment.
Although he lost the match, James Ward’s debut on Wimbledon’s Centre Court holds great promise for British Tennis, which was always the exclusive game of the upper class who constitute the membership of clubs. America developed tennis by taking the game to public parks.
Venus Williams, winner of a record five Wimbledon titles, defeated Donna Vencic, 6/4; 6/4, to advance to the second round.