Novak Djokovic is the top seed at Wimbledon for the third year in a row, and he lived up to that label en route to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Andrey Golubev in Monday's first-round match.
A dominant display saw Djokovic barely break a sweat at the All England Club, needing only an hour and 28 minutes to dispose of his outmatched adversary. There was no lack of aggression from Djokovic on the grass courts, as he went to the net often, returned brilliantly and held his own on serve.
Sports Illustrated's Courtney Nguyen highlighted how The Serbinator couldn't have gotten off to a much more perfect start:
Novak Djokovic has won 10 straight games over Golubev. In case you’re counting at home.— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 23, 2014
By the time he'd rattled off the first two sets while dropping just one game, Djokovic had the match well in hand. The crowd was even pleased when Golubev finally got on the scoreboard:
Although the third set was slightly more competitive, it was about the only consolation Golubev could take from his defeat. It added to Djokovic's impressive pile of virtuoso Grand Slam performances, per FiveThirtyEight.com's Carl Bialik:
Since 2011 Aus. Open, Djokovic has won 12 completed Grand Slam matches with fewer than 6 games dropped. Nadal has 10, Federer 8, Murray 3.— Carl Bialik (@CarlBialik) June 23, 2014
Overpowering groundstrokes allowed Djokovic to devastate Golubev. The 2011 Wimbledon winner hit 34 winners to just 14 unforced errors, while Golubev had numbers of 15 and 22 in the same respective categories.
Djokovic's all-court game was evident in that he won 16 of 21 net points and handled the tough bounces on Wimbledon's grass courts exceptionally well. Even on serve, Golubev was at a disadvantage, losing more than half of his total service points, including 50 percent on his first serve.
After losing the French Open final to Rafael Nadal, this was proof that Djokovic was in control. After Monday's match, he dismissed concerns about his health.
"I don't know why people would be concerned about my physical condition," said Djokovic, per ESPN.co.uk. "It's been two weeks since the French Open final, that's more than enough time to recover and get ready. I'm feeling good, hopefully I can continue in the same way."
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If it's possible for the tournament favorite to have a chip on his shoulder, it seems Djokovic does. That was reflected not only in his post-match thoughts, but also in how sharp he was between the white lines. With the way Nadal and seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer have been upset within the first two rounds in recent years, even these early matches can't be taken for granted.
The same can be said for Djokovic's Round 2 match against Radek Stepanek, a gritty veteran who made it to the semifinals in his last start on grass at the ATP AEGON Championships. In that tournament, Stepanek beat beloved Brit Andy Murray.
The fact that Djokovic came out so hot is a great sign for his chances at redeeming last year's loss in the Wimbledon final to Murray. But first, Nole has to figure out a way to get past the man who most recently beat the reigning Wimbledon champion.
Note: Match statistics are courtesy of Wimbledon.com.