Wimbledon: Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic beats Kwon Soon-woo in opening match

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic has won six men’s singles titles at Wimbledon – including each of the last three in 2018, 2019 and 2021
Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June-10 July
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Defending champion Novak Djokovic began his quest for a fourth successive Wimbledon title with a hard-fought four-set win over South Korean Kwon Soon-woo under the Centre Court roof.

Djokovic is aiming to win a seventh title at SW19, which would take him one behind Roger Federer’s men’s record.

Serbia’s top seed prevailed 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 over the world number 81.

The win takes the former world number one’s victory streak at Wimbledon to 22 matches.

It also means Djokovic becomes the first player, man or woman, to record 80 singles wins at all four Grand Slam tournaments.

“I’ve said this before but this court is truly special, for me it has always been the court I dreamed of playing and winning and all my childhood dreams came true here so it’s an honour and pleasure to be back on Centre Court,” said Djokovic.

On winning 80 matches at Wimbledon, he added: “This sport has given me everything, I owe a lot to the sport and I love it still with all my heart.

“I am as dedicated as anyone out there, I am not one of the youngsters anymore but the love for this sport still burns in me and I try to always play my best tennis at the Grand Slams and deliver my best tennis at the best courts. Now that we’re at 80, let’s get to 100.”

Djokovic pulls through as Kwon rises to Centre Court occasion

As tradition dictates, defending men’s singles champion Djokovic was elected to begin proceedings on Centre Court as the Championships returned with full capacity crowds on Monday.

The 35-year-old world number three is the favourite to retain the title once again in the absence of top-ranked Daniil Medvedev – banned following Wimbledon’s decision to deny entry to Russian and Belarusian players – and the injured Alexander Zverev.

He overcame a spirited opponent to back up that billing and set up a second-round meeting with Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis or Pole Kamil Majchrzak.

It was 24-year-old Kwon who landed the first blow to the delight of an excitable Centre Court crowd, stunning the top seed with a break to 15 and again surrendering just a single point as he employed impressive variety to consolidate a 3-1 advantage.

But Djokovic settled in, breaking back before another allowed him to serve out the opening set with a five-game streak.

Kwon Soon-woo
Kwon was bidding to defeat a top-10 ranked player for the first time

Undeterred, Kwon, who won his sole ATP title to date in Astana last September, responded with a break for 3-1 in the second set and impressively saw off three break points from a 0-40 deficit to hold in the following game on his way to levelling the contest.

Encouraged by the crowd as he continued to apply pressure in the third, the South Korean was unable to clinch a break point in the fifth game – allowing Djokovic to strike late on and retake the lead.

They proved crucial moments, as Djokovic, having saved a break point in the opening game, eventually asserted himself in the fourth set.

A single break proved enough for him to earn a record-breaking win at SW19 and come through this tricky first-round encounter.

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