LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic is usually considered one of the “Mr Nice Guys” of the tennis circuit, always game for a laugh and ready to applaud the winners flying off his opponents’ rackets.
It was just too bad that Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev failed to witness any of those qualities on Monday.
What Golubev was treated to was no laughing matter, as Djokovic took on the role of Wimbledon executioner, combining brutal force with deft touches to reach the second round with a 6-0 6-1 6-4 victory.
The 2011 champion, elevated to top seed despite his world number two ranking, appeared to be heading for a rarely seen “triple bagel” in men’s tennis when he led 6-0 5-0.
Golubev eventually registered on the Centre Court scoreboard after 44 minutes, drawing a warm round of applause from the crowd who were eager to witness a closer contest.
Djokovic, however, was in no mood to oblige and took just 88 minutes to book a second-round showdown with wily Czech campaigner Radek Stepanek.
“It was a great start, especially the first two sets, and I could not be happier with the performance,” said the Serb, who has not won a grand slam tournament since the 2013 Australian Open.
Much had been made of the fact that Djokovic was the only member of the so-called ‘Big Four’ of Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to turn up at Wimbledon without playing a competitive match on grass this month.
It was a gamble that he did not regret taking.
Monday’s masterclass proved that his backhands were still firing, the forehands still sizzling and the aces still finding their mark as he condemned Golubev to an unwanted hat-trick of first-round losses at the majors this year.
“Coming into Wimbledon with no official (grasscourt) matches, it always gives you an extra reason to get that commitment and focus from the start and try to play as best as you can,” said the 2013 runner-up.
“So that’s what I did. Very, very pleased with my performance overall today.
“I am feeling well at the moment, comfortable on the court and hopefully I can continue in the same way.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Lovell and Stephen Wood