Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic may have described David Nalbandian as perhaps the toughest opponent he could possibly meet in the opening round of The Championships but he still only needed three sets to see off the Argentinian.
Opening proceedings in glorious sunshine on No.1 Court this afternoon, the No.8 seed displayed the impeccable form that, last November, helped him break into the top 10 for the first time in his career and remain there to carve out a 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory in two hours and 28 minutes.
Nalbandian was always going to be a formidable opponent on the Wimbledon lawns. A 2002 Wimbledon finalist, the big-hitting 30-year-old recently reached his second grasscourt final at Queen’s – an occasion which saw him defaulted for unsportsmanlike conduct after he kicked the front of a three-sided advertising board which struck a linesman’s leg.
Yet the only intimidating aspect of today’s encounter was the ferocity in which the balls were being hit – on numerous occasions the linesmen proved remarkably adept at ducking out of the way just in the nick of time, much to spectators' amusement.
Of course, the match always promised to be a powerful affair – both competitors play an aggressive baseline game and hit with astonishing accuracy and depth. The tussle certainly lived up to expectations. Intense, 10-plus stroke rallies proved to be the bread and butter of the duel and it was inevitably a question of which player would falter first.
It happened to be Nalbandian – he was broken midway through the opening set – and although the Argentinian threatened at times – he held three break points in the eighth game on his tattooed opponent’s serve – he was unable to convert. Tipsarevic, on the other hand, upped his game when it mattered and pulled out the aces on cue – he rustled up 18 in the match.
Two of those came when he was serving for the set at 5-4. The Serb fired down a 121mph serve, which Nalbandian was unable to get his racket on. Another ace followed – this time 108mph. By the time Tipsy had hit a deep blistering forehand down the line he had acquired three set points. And while a double fault cost the Serb the first, a netted Nalbandian forehand handed him the set on the next point.
Tipsarevic continued the momentum in the opening game of the second set but it was a lucky net cord that earnt him two break points. A spectacular volley later and the break was his.
Even so, the rallies continued to grow in intensity – the second set lasted an hour and 15 minutes - and the Argentinian was hitting the ball freely, which culminated in Nalbandian easily breaking Tipsarevic when he was serving for the second set.
It proved to be a momentary hiccup for the Serb – a strong tie-break followed and he picked off the final set for the loss of only two games – notching up 40 winners in the match.
Tipsy admitted it was difficult losing his second set service game so easily. “Going into the tie-break was hard but I managed to recuperate and play a very good tie-break,” he said. He now faces American qualifier Ryan Sweeting in the second round.