Novak Djokovic cruises, Andrey Rublev upset in Wimbledon opener

WIMBLEDON, England — Novak Djokovic wore a gray sleeve on his surgically repaired right knee while winning his first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday without too much of a test.

Playing his first match since tearing the meniscus in his knee at the French Open on June 3, Djokovic never faced a break point along the way to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory over qualifier Vit Kopriva in under two hours on Centre Court.

“Very pleased with the way I felt on the court. Obviously, coming into Wimbledon this year was little bit of different circumstances for me, because of the knee. I didn’t know how everything was going to unfold on the court, really,” Djokovic said. “Practice sessions are quite different from official match play. I’m just extremely glad [with] the way I felt today, the way I played.”

He accumulated 15 break chances, converting six, and delivered his usual clean strokes, finishing with twice as many winners (32) as unforced errors (16).

There were plenty of quick points, which probably was at least in part a result of Djokovic trying not to spend too much time running more than he needed to. He ended up taking 68 of the 91 exchanges that lasted four or fewer strokes.

“I tried to really focus on the game and not really think too much about the knee,” Djokovic said. “Everything I could possibly do, I’ve done, along with my team, in the last 3½ weeks in order to give myself a chance to be able to play.”

Djokovic, 37, has won seven of his men’s-record 24 Grand Slam titles at the All England Club and was the runner-up to Carlos Alcaraz last year.

Djokovic hurt his knee during a five-set win at Roland Garros and pulled out of that tournament, then had surgery in Paris on June 5. Less than a month later, he was back in action and taking the first step toward what he hopes would be an eighth championship at Wimbledon, which would tie Roger Federer‘s mark for the most by a man.

“If it was for any other tournament, I probably wouldn’t risk it, wouldn’t rush it as much,” Djokovic said. “I just love Wimbledon.”

Speaking to the crowd after the match, Djokovic thanked his surgeon, saying: “Without him doing his job well, things would be a bit complicated.”

He also noted Andy Murray‘s withdrawal on Tuesday, a little more than a week after the player from Scotland had a procedure to remove a cyst from his spine. Murray, 37, won two of his three major trophies at Wimbledon.

“A great blow to the tournament. It’s unfortunate, really,” Djokovic said. “Great respect to him [for] all he has done in this tournament and this sport. I just hope he will be able to finish his career on his terms.”

Elsewhere in the men’s draw, sixth-seed Andrey Rublev crashed out of the first round on Tuesday, losing 6-4 5-7 6-2 7-6 (5) to world No.122 Francisco Comesana of Argentina, who was playing his first match at a Grand Slam.

Rublev, a quarterfinalist last year before being defeated by Djokovic, frequently lost his temper, screamed out loud and ranted at his courtside coaching team.

At one point in the third set the 26-year-old, who also had a meltdown at the French Open in May, smashed his racket repeatedly over his knee, leaving it bloody and bruised for the rest of the match.

“I didn’t behave today as in Paris, but still I could do much better. This is not the way. Of course it’s the main priority to be able during all the match to be positive,” he told reporters, while acknowledging his opponent’s fine performance.

“I had a lot of chances, a lot of opportunities. I didn’t make them. The guy was playing really well, 10-points mentality, and he deserve to win,” he said.

Comesana, 23, who was playing only his second grass court match at any level, professional or junior, played with poise and control from the start. He broke Rublev for a 3-2 lead in the first set and then held to win it, much to the frustration of Rublev.

Rublev broke back early in the second and began to assert himself, frequently wrong-footing Comesana or drawing him into long rallies and overpowering him with powerful forehand shots.

Comesana fought his way back from three set points down twice in the second set before losing it.

But the Argentinian, who fired down 21 aces in all, powered through the rain-interrupted third set and narrowly outdid Rublev for guile and accuracy in the fourth before drawing an unforced error from the Russian to finish the match in style.

“I dreamed to play here. I’m so happy I don’t know what to say now,” he said in an on-court interview.

Jack Draper, the British No. 1, needed five sets to get by Swedish qualifier Elias Ymer.

The 22-year-old Draper outlasted Ymer on Center Court, 3-6 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-3, to advance to the second round.

After dropping the first set, Draper turned the match in his favor by winning the next two sets and looked on course for a quick finish. But Draper lost his focus and dropped serve at 4-4 in the fourth set, allowing Ymer to drag the match into a fifth set.

After a delay while the roof was closed and lights turned on, Draper regained his composure and closed out Ymer in the fifth.

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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