Wimbledon 2024: Djokovic looks sharp just weeks after knee surgery

Seven-time champion was at his fluid best in first round win over Czech qualifier Vit Kopriva

Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic reaches for a backhand against Vit Kopriva as he wins their first round match at Wimbledon (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)
Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic reaches for a backhand against Vit Kopriva as he wins their first round match at Wimbledon (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)

By James Toney at Wimbledon

We've long known that Novak Djokovic isn't normal, perhaps it's time to admit he's simply superhuman.

There were few signs of effects of the knee surgery he underwent just three weeks ago as he scampered and slid across a slick Centre Court to beat Czech qualifier Vit Kopriva 6-1 6-2 6-2.

His knee was heavily strapped but he didn't hold back, producing the sort of fluid swashbuckling first round show that has often preceded his seven titles here since 2011.

You almost wanted to request his medical records to check he wasn't pulling a fast one, fellow professionals shaking their heads in disbelief he's even fit enough to walk on court, let alone completely boss it.

Perhaps, for the first time, he's playing without the pressure of expectation, 12 months after his five set final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in a Wimbledon epic.

"I'm very pleased with the way that I felt on the court, it's been a strange preparation with my knee and I wasn't sure how things were going to unfold," said Djokovic.

"I'm just glad with how I felt and how I played. I tried to not focus too much on the knee, I've worked as hard as ever in the last few weeks to give myself the chance to play here. If this was any other tournament, I wouldn't be risking it but I just love Wimbledon.

"I've been fortunate with injuries comparing myself to other 37-year-olds in my sport, this was only the second surgery I've ever had."

Staying with the Kipling theme, if Djokovic was keeping his head then elsewhere Andrey Rublev was again totally losing his.

Rublev would be politely described as combustible and is known for kicking and screaming antics that surely need taming for his true talent to shine.

It's just a few weeks since a high-profile meltdown at the French Open and he was at it again as the number six seed went down 6-4 5-7 6-2 7-6 to Argentina’s Francisco Comesana.

After going down a double break in the third set, Rublev smashed his racquet on his leg seven times as the red-mist descended.

The inner chimp - to borrow from sports psychiatrist Steve Peters - had ran amok and Rublev's composure was as shot to pieces as his racquet.

"I didn't behave again and I need to do better, it's not the way I want to play, I want to be positive," he said.

"We can't hit the racquet on the floor, I’ll be fined, so I have to hit myself, I couldn't take it anymore and I needed to let my emotions out."

Alex De Minaur is the world number nine but likes to joke when he comes to Wimbledon he is better known as the other half of British women's number one Katie Boulter.

He beat fellow Australian James Duckworth in three tight sets over three tense hours, progressing via three successive tie-breaks, 7-6 7-6 7-6.

Wrapping his win early he then dashed to watch his girlfriend also progress to the second round.

Elsewhere number four seed Alexander Zverev breezed past Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2 6-4 6-2 while world number seven Poland's Hubert Hurkacz needed to come from behind to win.

He lost the first set to Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot but eventually advanced 5-7 6-4 6-3 6-4 - and believes he can fly under the radar through the draw.

"I really love grass and Wimbledon is so special," he said.

"I feel in great shape, I feel I can win and be inspired by this atmosphere and history. I've two weeks to find out."