On a gray and rainy day in London, the 34-year-old Djokovic was shocked in the first set, losing it 6-4 to British teenage Jack Draper in the Centre Court match.
But almost as if a bear had been poked, the world No. 1, who is a five-time Wimbledon champion, roared back to win the next three sets, dropping just five games to the 19-year-old wildcard qualifier.
The Serbian will play either South Africa’s Kevin Anderson — who he beat in the 2018 Wimbledon final — or Chilean qualifier Marcelo Barrios Vera in the second round.
Reigning Wimbledon champion Djokovic admitted that the wet weather affected him during his match against the world No 253.
“To be honest, I don’t recall falling this many times on the court,” said Djokovic after winning 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-2.
“[It was] obviously a huge honor to walk onto this court, for me at least the most special court. I always dreamed of playing at Wimbledon [and] winning Wimbledon one day when I was a kid growing up in Serbia.”
Good being back
Wimbledon is eagerly anticipated by tennis fans all around the world, and even more so this year after the tournament was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But remember this is Britain; wet weather and rain postponed the start of the first day’s play, with fans having to open umbrellas and don raincoats instead of sunglasses and caps.
Wimbledon’s return was also accompanied by fans flocking to the event, with tournament organizers — the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) — saying the grand slam will be a pilot event in the third phase of the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP). The tournament’s latter stages will be played in front of 100% capacity crowds.
At the moment there are 50% stadium capacities for Centre Court and No. 1 Court, and 75% for the smaller show courts.
For Djokovic, after playing a year of tennis with limited fans in stadiums, the opportunity to showcase his talents in front of spectators at the famous tournament was a privilege.
“It feels great seeing everyone and being back on probably the most special, the most sacred tennis court in the world,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview afterwards.
“Obviously, alongside many other players, I was very sad last year that Wimbledon was canceled. [It was] very difficult times for everyone, but I’m really glad that the sport is back and hopefully you guys have enjoyed it and you will enjoy it in the next couple of weeks.”