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June 29, 2021

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Novak wins at rainy Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic overcame an early scare before getting his bid for a sixth Wimbledon and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title off to a winning start yesterday while rain brought havoc to the schedule, one year after the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defending champion and world No. 1 Djokovic, looking to become just the third man in history to complete a calendar Grand Slam, claimed a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Britain’s 253rd-ranked Jack Draper.

However, the 34-year-old Serb struggled on the slippery Centre Court surface with the roof closed above it due to the rain.

Left-handed Draper, playing just his fifth match on the main tour, saved seven of seven break points in the opener to stun the top seed.

But Djokovic soon snuffed out any danger of him becoming only the third defending champion to lose in the first round, by sweeping through the remainder of the tie.

He finished with an impressive 25 aces and 47 winners as his 19-year-old opponent, who grew up just 10 kilometers from the All England Club, wilted.

“He’s a youngster and I hadn’t seen him play too much prior to Queen’s and he played pretty well, won matches against high-ranked players,” said Djokovic.

“Walking onto Wimbledon Centre Court for the first time, he’s done extremely well.”

Next up for Djokovic will be either former runner-up Kevin Anderson of South Africa or Chilean qualifier Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera.

It was the 34-year-old Djokovic’s first match on the court since his epic five-set win over Swiss Roger Federer in the 2019 final, the longest title match in tournament history and where he saved two championship points.

His match was preceded by a standing ovation for Professor Sarah Gilbert, one of the key scientists behind the Oxford Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine who was a special guest in the Royal Box.

Wimbledon looks very different with COVID-19 protocols in place and a 50 percent capacity until finals day, but one familiar feature was the summer rain.

Play on the outside courts started five hours late with 16 of the day’s scheduled 64 matches canceled until today.

Second seed Aryna Sabalenka had the honor of being the first winner at the tournament in two years when she downed Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4 under the roof of Court One.

Belarus’s Sabalenka fired 48 winners past Niculescu.


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