Leave it to Novak Djokovic to strike up a conversation with a bird during a match on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
The world No 1 began his title defence on Monday with a steady 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber and it was all under the watchful eye of a bird that interrupted his match more than once – a bird he believes flew all the way from Belgrade to help him out on court.
“From where I come from, from capital of Serbia, Belgrade, there’s a special sparrow bird called jivjum [phonetically spelt]. I believe this bird came all the way from Belgrade to help me,” joked Djokovic of the bird that spent most of the match nearby on the grass.
“But I was feeling for its safety honestly. It just loves tennis, I guess.
— Paul Brown (@pbsportswriter) June 29, 2015
“At one point Kohlschreiber was serving at the advantage side, between the first and second serve, the bird landed literally very close to the sideline. She stayed there until I won that point. So I said ‘be my guest, stay around, if you want’.
“It was funny to see that. We had birds, mostly birds and different animals come in and out from the court. But the sparrow bird from Belgrade really stayed for the entire match.”
Djokovic did not need much help from the lucky bird. After trading breaks early with Kohlschreiber, the highest-ranked non-seed in the draw, the Serb broke again in game 10 to take the lead.
It was a break in the 10th games of the second and third sets as well that gave him the victory and a second round meeting with Finnish lefty Jarkko Nieminen.
Djokovic was happy with his opener and praised his own return against the tricky German but was upset when he was questioned again about illegal coaching following comments from his coach Boris Becker that implied they communicate during matches.
A serbian journalist asks Djokovic if now they’re gonna wanna charge the bird for sending on court messages to him. The LOL.
— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) June 29, 2015
Communication between a player and his coach is strictly prohibited during matches under the ITF and ATP rules but Becker has stated recently that there are ways he can send across a message to Djokovic, who on Sunday had explained that he only receives reassurance from his team during matches rather than actual instructions.
On Monday he was asked about it again and said: “I’m just trying to figure out what you want to achieve with this story. I don’t understand what you really want. Do you want to say I’m cheating, my team?
“If I am breaking any rules or my team does, I would be fined for that, right? The chair umpire would say ‘coaching penalty’, and that’s it. Or the supervisor, or whoever.”
Joining Djokovic in the second round is French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who posted a 6-2, 7-5, 7-6(3) win over Portugal’s Joao Sousa. Wawrinka fired 45 winners against 30 unforced errors and faced zero break points on his own serve.
The Swiss has been the toast of the tennis tour since he blasted past Djokovic to win Roland Garros earlier this month and he revealed the secret behind his powerful shots.
“I keep a very good fitness trainer, Pierre Paganini. We have a specific plan. I’m really happy with what he did with my body and the way he pushed me to get that strong on the tennis court now,” said the 30-year-old world No 4.
“I think my power is coming from my feet and upper body, abs and back. You can see when I put my feet early, the power is really stronger. It’s not completely from the arm, but it’s really whole the body.”
No 5 seed Kei Nishikori survived an epic battle with Italy’s Simone Bolelli to triumph 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a second round with Colombian Santiago Giraldo.
“I knew it was going to be tough, tough one because we played long five sets last year here,” said Nishikori, who is making his seventh Wimbledon appearance. “I knew he’s good on grass. Mentally I was ready, but maybe there was many ups and downs. My serve, and maybe my concentration wasn’t there some moments.”
Making his grand slam singles debut, British wild card Liam Broady came back from two sets down to beat Australian Marinko Matosevic 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Last year’s semi-finalist and No11 seed Grigor Dimitrov rebounded from his first round loss at Roland Garros with a convincing 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 win over Federico Delbonis of Argentina.
Spanish coach Toni Nadal does not consider his charge Rafael Nadal as one of the favourites for Wimbledon but believes he can still have a good fortnight at SW19.
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Rafa, seeded No10 this tournament, will begin his quest for a third Wimbledon trophy today against Brazilian lefty Thomaz Bellucci in a rematch of their first round here three years ago.
The Spaniard, who is 4-0 lifetime against Bellucci, had a mixed preparation on grass, winning the title in Stuttgart before losing in his opening match at Queen’s Club to Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Toni feels his nephew is in good shape but does not give him as much of a chance of winning the title as he gives the current world’s top-three.
“I think he is not the top favourite here. I think the top favourites are (Roger) Federer, (Novak) Djokovic and (Andy) Murray,” Toni told Sport360 after Rafa finished an intense practice session with Roberto Bautista Agut.
“But after these three, I think Rafael can be one of the… I don’t know… with Wawrinka, with Berdych, with Kyrgios… he can have the possibility but not the most possibility.”
After capturing a second Wimbledon trophy in 2010, Nadal lost a final here against Djokovic the follow year, but hasn’t had much success at the All England Club since – losing in the second round, first round and fourth round on his last three trips.
Toni is happy that the knee troubles that hampered Rafa’s campaigns in 2012 and 2013 have subsided but is aware that grass is a tricky surface for his student.
“At the moment the level is good. When you’re in practice, the level is good enough but we know that here on grass courts there are always dangers. Sometimes you feel you’re playing really well and then you go there and everything changes in one minute,” said the 54-year-old coach.
“It’s different now because we came here some years we couldn’t play because Rafa couldn’t go down low with his knees for the low-bouncing balls. It was impossible to make a good tournament. Now we can make a good tournament. If we do or not, I don’t know, but we can.”
Asked if winning the title in Stuttgart has given Rafa enough confidence on the surface, Toni said: “Enough? I don’t know. It was good for confidence because he was playing at a good level, good matches against good players. But then we played in Queen’s and we lost. We needed a little more, if in Queen’s it was the same as Stuttgart it would have been so much better.”
Seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, who faces Bosnian Damir Dzumhur in the first round today, says he’s feeling ready for the action this fortnight although warned that the courts are typically slippery in opening week, revealing he took a stumble in practice yesterday.
Both Rafa and Bautista Agut also had heavy falls during their hitting session.
Asked what he felt is the most important thing to look out for in the first week at Wimbledon, the second-seeded Federer said: “You just find a way to come through. You try to win as quick as you can so you don’t waste energy.
“In the beginning the grass does play more different, it’s more slippery, I fell down today in practice, so you just have got to be more careful with your footing. It’s not as straightforward. But then as the tournament progresses it gets easier to move around and that’s when the best players also start playing their best tennis.”
Meanwhile, French No13 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who faces Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller today, says he has recovered from the abdominal injury that forced him out of Nottingham last week.
The former Wimbledon semi-finalist said: “I’m feeling good, I’m alright, in good shape and ready to go. I’m fit and I’ll try to play my best tennis.”
2013 champion Andy Murray faces Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin on Centre Court today. The Scot is being tipped as one of the hot contenders for the title but he insists he is not getting ahead of himself just yet.
“The most important thing is to concentrate on your first match really, and prepare for that. It's very easy to get carried away and look ahead, think ‘I'm playing great tennis, everything's going to be fine’,” said Murray.
“But the reality is it doesn't really matter what's happened the rest of the year or in the buildup to the event as I think Stan (Wawrinka) proved at the French Open.
“You have to make sure you're ready each day for every opponent that you come up against.
“I'm certainly not getting carried away.”
Top seed Serena Williams and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova reached the Wimbledon second round after straight set victories.
Top seed Serena Williams, bidding to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to wrap up all four majors in one season, endured a nervy start and was warned for swearing before completing a 6-4, 6-1 win over Margarita Gasparyan, the world number 113 from Russia who has never won a tour-level match in four years as a professional.
“It feels good so far. Just one match but it feels good just to be back here at Wimbledon. I’ve done so well here in the past so I’ll always have so many good memories,” said the 33-year-old American after her 73rd Wimbledon match win secured her a second round clash against Hungary’s Timea Babos.
Fourth seed Sharapova also reached the second round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Britain’s Johanna Konta. Sharapova, the 2004 champion, will face Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp for a place in the last 32.
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) June 29, 2015
“I was quite pleased with the way things went. It was my first competitive match in about four weeks, so I just wanted to start off really strong,” said the Russian.
Five-time champion Venus Williams wasn’t to be outdone as the 34-year-old American took just 42 minutes to crush compatriot Madison Brengle 6-0, 6-0. Williams hit 29 winners to just two from Brengle, the world number 36. But hers wasn’t the fastest win of the day as German 14th seed Andrea Petkovic needed just 38 minutes to see off Shelby Rogers of the United States.
Spanish ninth seed Carla Suarez Navarro went down 6-2, 6-0 to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in just 52 minutes while Italian 24th seed Flavia Pennetta lost 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas.
Two-time semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka, seeded 23, saw off Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-1 and seventh seed Ana Ivanovic breezed past Chinese qualifier Xu Yifan 6-1, 6-1.