Tennis

James Ward, pictured, stretches to reach a ball in his loss to Novak Djokovic.

Champion Novak Djokovic battles to victory over Britain's James Ward

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James Ward's Wimbledon campaign was predictably swift but he left Centre Court with his head held high following a first-round defeat to Novak Djokovic.

Ward shared defending champion Djokovic's honour of playing the first match of the tournament on Centre Court.

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On paper it was a complete mismatch between the world number one, a man who holds all four grand slam trophies and has not lost at Wimbledon since 2013, and a British wild card ranked 177.

It looked that way as Djokovic romped through the first nine games but, having got on the board, Ward pushed his illustrious opponent hard and it took the top seed two hours and three minutes to clinch a 6-0 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 victory.

Ward has had a tough time on and off the court since his run to the third round last year elevated him to a career-high ranking of 89.

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Shortly afterwards his Australian coach, Darren Tandy, began to show symptoms of the advanced colon cancer from which he died on Christmas Eve.

Ward is still trying to learn how to deal with his grief and there have been precious few notable victories to cheer.

Djokovic had not played a tournament match since finally getting his hands on the French Open trophy three weeks ago so t his was a first test of how having achieved tennis immortality would affect him going forward.

But any thought it might distract him or take away any hunger was swiftly dismissed as he raced through the opening set.

The scoreline was harsh on Ward, who had chances to win his first two service games and led 0-40 in the third game, but poor serving cost him dearly.

At 3-0 in the second set, things were looking grim for the 29-year-old Briton, but he finally found some first serves to get on the board in the 10th game.

The achievement was met with a huge cheer, and Ward whipped up the crowd before putting his momentum to the best use by breaking the Djokovic serve.

The rest of the set showed the world number one is human as he committed an uncharacteristic number of unforced errors.

Djokovic had to save three break points at 5-5 but, having done so, he dominated the tie-break and then broke serve again in the third game of the second set.

Ward refused to lie down and made Djokovic work for his victory, which he completed with an ace to set up a second-round clash with France's Adrian Mannarino.

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Topics:
Novak Djokovic
Wimbledon
Tennis

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