London: Defending champion Novak Djokovic got his campaign for a fifth Wimbledon title off to a winning start yesterday with newly-hired coaching team recruit, and 2001 winner, Goran Ivanisevic helping steer the ship.
Djokovic, chasing a fifth title at the All England Club, saw off 35-year-old Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
But he had to recover from early breaks in both of the first two sets against a player who beat him at Indian Wells this year, as well as a nasty fall on the Centre Court grass.
Djokovic, chasing a 16th career major, will face Denis Kudla of the United States for a place in the last 32.
Meanwhile, young guns Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev suffered shock first-round defeats as the sixth and seventh seeds were bundled out within an hour of each other.
Greek Tsitsipas entered the tournament tipped as the man most likely to challenge the authority of the big three but was beaten 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-7(8) 6-3 by lowly-ranked Italian Thomas Fabbiano who produced an inspired display on Court Two.
Tsitsipas saved two match points in the fourth-set tiebreak but Fabbiano, ranked 102nd, was relentless and when he broke in the seventh game of the decider with a cruel netcord it was clear it was not going to be Tsitsipas’s day.
“If I won today I would not have deserved it. It should have been over in three sets,” said Tsitsipas.
“I feel devastated.”
He found himself in good company through the exit door though as Germany’s Zverev ran into Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely and was also sent packing.
The 22-year-old seemed on course for victory when he won the first set but the powerfully-built Vesely roared back.
Zverev, coached by Ivan Lendl, slipped when serving at 5-6 15-30 in the fourth set, handing his opponent two match points, and netted a backhand volley to seal his fate.
“Everything outside the court affects you, I won’t get into details now, but the last couple of days have been very rough for me,” said Zverev who has never got beyond the last 16.
Canadian 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime kept ‘NextGen’ hopes alive by beating Canadian compatriot Vasek Pospisil 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.
Fourth seed Kevin Anderson, runner-up to Djokovic in 2018, eased into the second round beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
Anderson will now play Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic who registered his first win at the tournament in seven years when he defeated Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.