LONDON (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic’s 19 Grand Slam titles have been built on precision groundstrokes, elastic-limbed movement and an iron will, but worryingly for those hoping to snatch away his Wimbledon crown, he now has another weapon in his armory.
The 34-year-old’s serve has sometimes been overlooked when analysing what makes Djokovic one of the all-time greats, but when he found himself in a spot of bother against British teenager Jack Draper on Monday, it was the serve that carried him clear of danger in a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-2 win.
The Serb banged down 25 aces — a huge amount by his standards — landed 78% of his first deliveries and dropped only 14 points on serve in the match.
It enabled him to stay calm in the face of some feisty resistance by Draper and eventually dominate the 19-year-old wildcard who played superbly in the first set of an impressive Grand Slam main draw debut.
“I think I probably had one of the best serving performances that I can recall on any surface,” Djokovic told reporters after opening his quest to draw level on a record 20 Grand Slam titles with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.
“I think I matched someone told me my record in Australia where I also hit 25 aces in four sets.
“I could not be more pleased with the rhythm of my serve. On grass, the quickest surface in our sport, it helps a lot getting a lot of free points on that first serve.”
Djokovic remained unflustered despite dropping the opening set and suffering several tumbles on the greasy surface.
Once he had won the second set in 26 minutes he was unstoppable and looked every bit the odds-on favorite to claim the title on July 11.
“I was kind of slipping a few times on those break points. Still finding my footing on the grass that was quite slippery, quite moist. It was probably because of the roof,” he said.
“I’m pleased with the second, third and fourth set, the way I played from the back of the court. I started returning better, as well, midway second set. All in all, I’m satisfied.”
Djokovic is not only chasing his 20th Grand Slam title but is also halfway to becoming the first male player since Rod Laver in 1968 to claim a calendar-year sweep of the majors, having bagged the Australian Open and French titles.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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