It was not quite the triple bagel that Novak Djokovic was aiming for during the opening 41 minutes of his first-round match but the Serbian is unlikely to be too disappointed after he beat Britain’s James Ward 6-0 7-6(3) 6-4 at Wimbledon on Monday.
The holder of all four grand slam titles appeared to be hurtling towards his 29th successive win at a major when he opened his Wimbledon defence by jumping out to a 6-0 3-0 lead.
But two rallying war cries from the Centre Court crowd, “Wake up Wardy, wake up” followed by “He’s only human James!” snapped the 177th-ranked wildcard out of his trance.
A ‘human’ Djokovic was forced to block out the noisy commotion moments later when Ward finally held serve to save his blushes.
Had the world number one not kept track of the score, he might have thought Ward had just won the match as the Briton celebrated by holding both arms aloft as he lapped up the applause from all around the court.
Ward, who had not won a tour level match of any kind since making the third round here 12 months ago, then went on a roll to level the set at 3-3.
He also had three chances to break his more illustrious opponent in the 11th game of the second set but it was not long before Djokovic snapped back into his ‘Super-human’ persona and ushered the son of a London black cab driver out of Wimbledon.
“I was really flawless, I felt great,” said the 29-year-old, who is bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold the first three legs of the calendar grand slam.
Unsurprisingly, Ward’s memory of the day was somewhat different.
“It was an ugly start,” Ward said after slumping to his eighth successive tour-level defeat.
“The more the games go on, you start panicking, especially against a guy who is making so many balls. Everything you hit is coming back,” he added.
“(But) I’m proud of myself the way I turned it around because it could have been ugly.”
Djokovic will next meet Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.