Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas knocked out in first round by Frances Tiafoe while 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 on Monday while rain brought havoc to the schedule, one year after the tournament was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Late in the day, two-time champion Andy Murray won his first Wimbledon singles match since 2017 with a rollercoaster four-set triumph over Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.
Murray, the champion in 2013 and 2016 but who has fought a long battle with hip and groin injuries in recent years, triumphed 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 over the 26th seeded Basilashvili.
Now ranked a lowly 118 in the world, former number one Murray will face either Oscar Otte of Germany or France’s Arthur Rinderknech for a place in the last 32. Their match was suspended at 9-9 in the fifth set due to darkness.
Tsitsipas became the first big name to exit Wimbledon on the first day of play, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-3. He has now lost in the first round at Wimbledon on three occasions.
It was quite a contrast in fortunes for the Greek who only a fortnight ago lost in five sets to Djokovic in the French Open final.
Tiafoe, the world No 57, goes on to face either Canada’s Vasek Pospisil or Roberto Carballes Baena for a place in the last 32. It was the first time in 12 attempts that 23-year-old Tiafoe had beaten a played ranked in the top five in the world.
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 six miles (9.5km) 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 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 Roger Federer in the 2019 final, the longest title match in tournament history and where he saved two championship points.
His match on Monday was preceded by a standing ovation for Professor Sarah Gilbert, one of the key scientists behind the Oxford Asra-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% 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 cancelled until Tuesday.
Play on the All England Club’s outside courts had been due to get under way at 11:00am (1000 GMT). However, that start time was constantly revised with 3:30pm (1430GMT) the latest start time set by organisers.
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Jack Draper (GBR) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
Kevin Anderson (RSA) bt Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera (CHI) 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)
Andreas Seppi (ITA) bt João Sousa (POR) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2
Denis Kudla (USA) bt Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP x30) 5-7, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-3
Liam Broady (GBR) bt Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-0
Jiri Vesely (CZE) bt Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5)
Márton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Jannik Sinner (ITA x19) 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3
Andrey Rublev (RUS x5) bt Federico Del Bonis (ARG) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x3) 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) bt Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Karen Khachanov (RUS x25) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3)
Dominik Koepfer (GER) bt Reilly Opelka (USA x27) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) bt Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x8) bt John Millman (AUS) 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4)
With AFP Inputs