LONDON: Novak Djokovic got the defence of his Wimbledon title off to an impressive start when, serving superbly, he overwhelmed Germany`s Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets in the first match on Centre Court on Monday.
After a few early wobbles Djokovic triumphed 6-3 7-5 6-3 as, perhaps already buoyed by the presence of new coach Goran Ivanisevic, he really hit the mark with his serves.
"He`s someone I`ve always looked up to and we`ve been friends for a long time - though usually on the opposite side of the net," Djokovic said of the 2001 champion who has come on board as part of his coaching team.
"He`s coached lots of great players, so it`s great to have him on my side. He`s going to stay for sure through the first week then we`ll see. It`s a great pleasure to have such a champion and hopefully we can have a long collaboration."
Djokovic, 32, came into the tournament having decided not to play a grass-court warm-up event and he must have been a little edgy having lost to Kohlschreiber in straight sets on the hard courts of Indian Wells earlier this year.
For a man not so well known outside tennis circles, 35-year-old Kohlschreiber has a long, if not particularly distinguished, career.
This Wimbledon was his 60th grand slam event - putting him joint-ninth in the open-era on the appearances list. It was also his 15th successive Wimbledon, but Monday`s two-hour show marked the ninth time he had failed to get past the first round.
The champion made an inauspicious start, double-faulting his first serve en route to being broken, but quickly found his feet to reel off the next four games and win the first set 6-3.
Kohlschreiber found his length with more consistency in the second and the two traded heavy blows in crowd-pleasing rallies not often seen these days on the grass.
At 4-4 the German saved three break points - the last courtesy of a successful challenge - only to drop his next service game as Djokovic served out for 7-5 and a two-set lead.
The early stages of the third set were also entertainingly well-fought, with both men nailing the baseline with huge power until Djokovic really found his serving rhythm to take command and wrap up the match by taking it 6-3.
"It felt great, it`s the sacred court, the cradle of our sport and it has a special place in my heart and my career," Djokovic said.
"Opening round matches are always tricky, he has a lot of experience and beat me this year. I know he can play good quality tennis, he takes the ball early, so it was a great test for me and all three sets were pretty close," he added.