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Tuesday, 4 July 2017 15:49 PM BST
Djokovic eases through as Klizan retires
No.2 seed Novak Djokovic enjoyed a quick passage into the second round when his opponent Martin Klizan retired early in the second set READ MORE

We are no further with “is Novak on the path back to his best” debate but the man himself, Novak Djokovic, is safely and swiftly through to the second round. He barely had time to break a sweat.

Prepared to do whatever it took to get his Wimbledon campaign off and running, the No.2 seed was only required for 40 minutes as Martin Klizan retired from their Centre Court encounter with a sore leg while trailing the once-mighty Serb 6-3, 2-0.

Having made the decision to part company with his entire team a month before the French Open in an attempt to jump-start his form and get himself out of his current slump, Djokovic’s box now looks like a who’s who of tennis. First he signed up Andre Agassi as his coach and now Mario Ancic is settled in beside him, presumably to offer a little serve and volley advice for the grass court swing. But there was little for either former superstar to get their teeth into: Djokovic did what he had to while Klizan could hardly do anything at all.

“You never like to end up a match this way but I knew that Klizan had issues even before walking on the court,” Djokovic said. “I tried to just focus on what I need to do, execute my game plan. I started serving well, played well on my service games, not so great on my returns but it didn’t matter – I made a break. But you could see that he wasn’t moving: once the ball was a couple of feet away from him, he let it go. Just unfortunate. I’m sure he didn’t want to finish this way because it’s Wimbledon, it’s a very particular tournament for all of us. I wish him all the best.”

So the only clue we have on Djokovic’s form – and so his chance in the next couple of weeks – comes from Eastbourne where he won the title at the weekend. Given that he finished work there on Saturday evening and only got settled into his Wimbledon digs on Sunday, maybe an early first round finish was just what he needed. As for Klizan – he needed a good long rest to let his ailing leg heal.

Klizan and grass were not made for each other. The left-hander from Bratislava has not won a match on the green stuff since 2014 (he reached the quarter-finals in Eastbourne only to be stopped in his tracks by Richard Gasquet) and the draw here this year did not look as if it planned to change that run.

Come to think of it, Klizan must wonder what he did wrong in a previous life when it comes to his luck at the Grand Slam events. He gets Djokovic in the first round here, he had Andy Murray in the second round at the French Open and Stan Wawrinka in the opening round at the Australian Open.

As if that were not bad enough, the world No.47 limped on to court with his left calf heavily strapped. It is an injury he has been struggling with for several months and it caused him to pull out of his only attempt at a warm-up match before The Championships began. Heading to a first set tie-break in his first round in Antalya, his left leg just hurt too much. Enough was enough.

As he walked gingerly to the baseline for the start of the match, Klizan looked like a man who wanted desperately to be somewhere else (at home, on the couch with his feet up to rest that throbbing calf, most likely). Still, anything can happen on a tennis court, even if you are playing the world No.4 and a three-time former champion. So he gave it a go.

Starting out with a flurry of drop shots, Klizan had Djokovic frowning for a handful of games but it was only with impatience. It was only a matter of time, surely, before he would get the first break of serve – and he was right. He snapped the Klizan serve for a 5-3 lead and moments later he had wrapped up the set. At which point Klizan called for help: he had the physio come and have a look at the leg but after a bit of prodding and poking, the medical expert basically said there as not much to be done.

Opting to play on, Klizan was happy to leather the ball if it came anywhere near his reach but make him run and there was no chance. Two games later, he raised the white flag and Djokovic was into the second round and with the rest of the afternoon to himself. It may not have been the start he had anticipated or wanted but Djokovic could not complain.

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