LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic made a first round clash against a potentially tricky customer look like routine hitting practice, with Germany’s Florian Mayer the unwilling victim in a 6-3 7-5 6-4 defeat at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
The top seed and 2011 champion has unparalleled reserves of grit and mind-boggling physical capabilities, but his Wimbledon campaign began with the Serb playing percentages and applying enough gentle pressure to move into the second round.
The world number one rolled into the grounds of the All England Club just minutes before he was due on court and his relaxed demeanor remained largely unruffled for the one hour and 56 minutes he was in action.
The pair had met in last year’s quarter-final and, although Djokovic also won that encounter in straight sets, he saw enough to be on his guard against an upset this time around.
Following fifth seed Rafa Nadal’s shock exit on Monday, a whiff of mutiny was in the air among the tour’s lesser lights and the Serb was not taking any chances.
“Knowing his quality, knowing that we played in the quarter-final last year obviously gave me enough reason to not underestimate him and respect the fact that I need to be 100 percent focused from the start and try to have the control of the match,” Djokovic told reporters.
“And that’s what I did. I played well in the important moments.
Djokovic was back in action for the first time since losing a semi-final epic against Nadal at the French Open and looked sharp on the lush grass.
His returns frequently found their intended targets, hitting the lines, driving Mayer deeper and moving him to and fro on court and further out of his psychological comfort zone.
Djokovic was able to up the tempo with weapons missing from the German’s arsenal, while his familiar ability to stay in points to the bitter end frequently paid dividends.
After breaking Mayer in his opening service game and cruising through the first set, the Serb sought to turn the screw at the start of the second.
In a rare moment of resilience, the German, ranked 34 in the world, survived six break points in the third game to keep his nose in front.
Any lingering hopes of causing an upset, however, were wiped away when he was broken in the 11th game, with Djokovic striking the decisive blow with a scorching backhand winner at the end of a tiring rally in which Mayer had missed an easy overhead.
After serving out the second set Djokovic broke in the first game of the third then turned off the afterburners to cruise home.
His next opponent will be an American in the form of either qualifier Bobby Reynolds or wildcard Steve Johnson, but Djokovic will be taking nothing for granted.
“The sport is evolving, like everything in life,” he added.
“Everybody is getting better, getting more professional. At the opening stages of grand slams, there are a lot of quality players who have nothing to lose really coming on the Centre Court or Court One, playing in front of 10,000 or more people.
“Against one of the top players, you know, what can you really lose? You’re going to play your best tennis.”
Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ken Ferris