Defending champion Novak Djokovic fears he is becoming the victim of a smear campaign after his opening Wimbledon victory on Monday was overshadowed by more allegations of cheating.
The World No.1 and top seed eased to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Centre Court but many eyes were glued to the Serb’s coach Boris Becker after the German legend admitted he employed ways to instruct his player even though coaching is banned during a match.
Djokovic had spent large parts of the weekend defending Becker, a three-time Wimbledon winner, but admitted that many coaches use subtle means to encourage their players. “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? I’m really trying to figure out what’s behind this,” fumed the 28-year-old Djokovic.
“I mean, are you asking only me or are you asking other players, as well?”
The usually affable Djokovic added: “I’m going to say that there are certain ways of communication which is encouragement, which is support, which is understanding themoment when to, you know, clap or say something that can lift my energy up, that can kind of motivate me to play a certain point. But it’s all within the rules.”
Djokovic insisted that if the media wanted to pursue their line of questioning then they should talk to Becker. He refused to divulge if the German’s means of encouraging him were in use on Monday where the Serb opened the two-week tournament.
It’s not a new controversy for Djokovic – he has twice been rapped for coaching in the past, although on both occasions it was before Becker came on board to work alongside long-time coach Marian Vajda.
“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,” he said. “I think it has happened in my life, no doubt about that. Of course, I accept the fact if my coach, Boris or Marian, do say something that is against the rules that are in place, I have no complaint about the code violation that I get for coaching. So, I mean, I’m completely fine by that.”
Djokovic said the issue had not been discussed with Becker or any of his support team before Monday’s match.
The World No.1 was playing his first match since his defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the final of the French Open three weeks ago ended his hopes of completing a career Grand Slam. He will now face Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen for a place in the last 32.
In women’s action, Serena Williams moved past the halfway mark in her quest for a rare calendar year Grand Slam. Serial title winner Williams, 33, has the Australian Open and French Open under her belt this year and her bid for a sixth Wimbledon crown began with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Russian debutant Margarita Gasparyan.
She swaggered on to Court One under sunny skies but took a while to warm to the task of chalking up a 22nd consecutive victory in Grand Slams, dropping her mighty serve in the opening game and looking rattled. World No.1 Williams was warned for an audible obscenity when trailing 3-2 but soon transferred her aggression into some belting winners to overwhelm the World No. 113.
Only two women in the professional era have won all four Grand Slams in the same year – Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988 – but 20-times major singles champion Williams is closing in.
Fighting tooth and nail as only he knows how old warrior Lleyton Hewitt waved an emotional goodbye to Wimbledon after losing a five-set thriller to Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen on Monday. Thirteen years after beating Argentina’s David Nalbandian to win the title, the 34-year-old, who will retire after next year’s Australian Open, went toe to toe with fellow veteran Nieminen but went down 3-6 6-3 4-6 6-0 11-9.
Roared on by his fans all dressed in gold Hewitt saved two consecutive match points at 4-5 in the fifth set, but eventually succumbed in a match spanning four hours.
It was the former world number one Australian’s 56th five-setter in a superb grand slam career in which he also beat Pete Sampras to win the 2001 U.S. Open.
Kei Nishikori shook off a calf strain that had hindered his Wimbledon build-up as he survived a 6-3 6-7(4) 6-2 3-6 6-3 test against Italian Simone Bolelli to reach the second round of the grasscourt major on Monday.
Concerns that the injury which forced the Japanese to retire from the Halle semi-finals would scupper his Wimbledon campaign surfaced midway through the fifth set when he had to get his stricken left calf re-strapped while leading 3-0. Despite being in some discomfort, fifth-seeded Nishikori kept going for three hours and 22 minutes to win his second successive five-set marathon against Bolelli at Wimbledon after the pair went the distance in the third round last year.
“It’s a little bit sore from last week but it’s getting better and it wasn’t easy to play for three hours but it should be okay for the next match,” Nishikori said moments after walking off court.