LONDON // Novak Djokovic beat Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 at Wimbledon, Djokovic's first time on court since his 43-match winning streak ended in the French Open semi-finals two weeks ago.
"When this streak ended in Paris, it was kind of a relief as well, because it's been a very, very successful five, six months for me, but very long as well and exhausting," Djokovic said. "I've played so many matches. So I needed some time to relax."
Djokovic did not play any grass-court tune-up tournaments after Roland Garros, but he did not show any sign of rust against the 54th-ranked Chardy.
Djokovic dropped just two points on serve in the first set and 11 in the entire match. He saved the only break point he faced.
Now he is 42-1 in 2011, heading into the second round against Kevin Anderson or Illya Marchenko, whose match was suspended because of darkness yesterday.
Djokovic is a two-time Australian Open champion and a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist. He said Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — winners of the past eight Wimbledon titles — are the favourites at the All England Club this year, but considers himself a contender.
"It's true there is a different approach to this year's Wimbledon from my side because I'm playing, I think, best tennis of my life in the last six months," Djokovic said. "That's why confidence-wise, I believe in myself much more on the court and I know I can perform well, equally well, on this surface as I do on the other ones."
Niland's support boost
Forget Centre Court, the most sought-after ticket at Wimbledon on Tuesday was for Court 17.
With a raucous Irish contingent behind him, Conor Niland came close to being the first Irishman to win a men's singles match at Wimbledon in the Open era.
By the time the fifth set came around against Adrian Mannarino of France, Niland's supporters were climbing onto adjacent walls and standing on tiptoes to try to see over the barriers and catch a glimpse of the 29-year-old Limerick resident.
Every point Niland won was greeted by a huge roar that could be heard over on Court One. One group of fans wore green Team Niland T-shirts. Another spectator was wrapped in an Ireland flag. Two more were - bizarrely - dressed like the Where's Wally character.
Niland, who came through qualifying to become the first Irishman to play at Wimbledon in 27 years, led 4-1 in the final set but lost 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
James Blake is not thinking of retirement
James Blake is not ready for retirement just yet. At 31, Blake is on the comeback trail after knee, shoulder and elbow injuries have taken their toll on his body the past year.
Once ranked as high as No 4, Blake understands he is in the twilight of his career. Nevertheless, even a 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 4-6, 6-4 first-round loss to Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus did not leave Blake thinking it is time to leave tennis behind.
"That's going to be a decision that's going to take longer than one match, and I wouldn't want to make it within an hour, two hours, or even a day of a loss, especially because your head isn't where it's supposed to be at that time," said Blake, who is 4-14 in five-set matches.
"I've lost over the years, probably, about a couple of hundred matches, and I'd say out of 200, about 198 of them I probably thought I should retire right after those losses," said Blake, who actually is 338-220. "But I'd come back the next day ready to play and ready to get better. I'm thinking this one will be the same."
Sharapova is Russian to the core
Even after spending most of her life in the United States, Maria Sharapova is decidedly Russian.
The No 5 seed Sharapova spoke about her Russian roots after beating former Fed Cup teammate Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 6-1 in the first round at Wimbledon.
"I'm really proud of it, of my Siberian roots, moving to Sochi," the 2004 Wimbledon champion said. "Apart from my parents, all my family lives there. It's all about Russian culture. I speak to my parents in Russian, eat Russian food, all of that."
The 24-year-old Sharapova moved to the United States when she was nine to start training in Florida.
"There was a point in my career where I got a lot of questions living in the United States for such a long time, leaving when I was young from my country, why I never chose to change citizenships," Sharapova said. "One of the reasons is because deep down inside of me, I know where I'm born."
Mirza feels the pain
India's Sania Mirza was battling agonising pain as a nasty knee injury left her bid to win Wimbledon doubles glory resting on an ultrasound scan.
Mirza was already carrying a niggling left knee problem but tweaked it within minutes of starting her Wimbledon singles first round match against France's Virginie Razzano on Tuesday.
The world No 60 battled on and even won the second set despite being unable to change direction in her 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 first round defeat.
"I've had the same injury since just before the French Open. I've been playing a lot on it," Mirza said. "It will get worse if I keep playing on it. At 3-0 I tweaked it in the first set. I served and fell on the leg, tried to change direction and jerked it. I was already on painkillers but immediately the pain level went up 10 times.
"I have to see the doctor and get an ultrasound scan. "It is very, very painful. I can still serve but I can't move and change direction. I'm hurting to go up and down stairs and even to walk."