Novak Djokovic pushing towards untouchable tennis records

The defending Wimbledon champion has not lost on Centre Court since Andy Murray beat him in 2013

Novak Djokovic, playing on the The Supreme Court, sat for longer than he had imagined on day one. As ever with every flick of his racket Djokovic was making a mark, with each game won and match put behind him the longest passage in the tennis history book was being written.

Pedro Cachin, the unseeded player from Argentina, met the author in an environment that could not have been more hostile. He may have taken comfort from that. It was Cachin’s debut at Wimbledon, it was his first match on Centre Court with its temperamental bounces and skids, and it was his first meeting with Djokovic.

But the bare facts show the pair came out at 1.30pm with a following 2:07pm rain shower. The roof was closed but grounds men arrived with giant dryers blowing the grass and the players came off court. At 5.18pm the contest ended with Djokovic claiming the third match point for 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (4). Safe passage to the second round added to a remarkable record that is getting more daft by the match.

While the covers were on and the fans peered at the sky and the expression of Djokovic’s coach, former winner Goran Ivanisevic, defaulted to glowering, gloomy and anxious, it was worked out that the defending champion had not lost at Wimbledon since July 12th, 2017, or 2,182 days.


Defeat was that year’s quarter-finals when Djokovic was forced to retire against Tomas Berdych at 7-6, 2-0. He then won the title in 2018 and 2019. The tournament in 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, before he won it again in 2021 and 2022.

The Serb has not lost a completed match since the year before Berdych in 2016 in a shock defeat to Sam Querrey on Court One, and has not lost on Centre Court for 10 years. His last defeat there was in the 2013 final, when Andy Murray beat him.

Djokovic may not ever win the most delightful personality award – although he does try hard – but his record at the All-England Club is becoming untouchable. If he wins all seven matches and the title to match Roger Federer’s eight he will also become the oldest players to win the men’s singles in the Open Era.

“A little bit of strange circumstances with the roof being closed and us delaying the match for almost an hour and a half,” said Djokovic. “It was very strange that for more than an hour the situation was not changing at all for better. I think they’re tracking right now. I think they will probably answer this question better for you, whether it’s the air-conditioning system, it was quite humid, so that didn’t help. It was a solid start though.”

The fourth seed Casper Ruud is also through. The Norwegian, who has never won a Grand Slam but has appeared in two French Open finals and a US Open final in the last two years, won in four sets against Frenchman Laurent Lokoli.

Ruud, who has a relatively low profile given his high world ranking, easily won the first 6-1 before the French qualifier grabbed back the second set 7-5 to draw level. A less compromised 6-4, 6-3 to finish the match put him comfortably into the second round.

Already the 24-year-old has equalled his second round runs on the grass in 2021 and 2022. Afterwards he said he had felt nervous. “Well, I think it’s just this place is a bit special,” said Ruud. “My father and I, we don’t have the greatest record at Wimbledon (smiling). Any time we can pick up a win, it’s big for the family.”

His father Christian was also former tennis player who turned professional in 1991. He achieved a career-high singles world ranking of 39 in 1995, reaching the fourth round of the 1997 Australian Open and the quarter-finals of the 1997 Monte Carlo Masters. He retired in 2001 and was the highest-ranked Norwegian male player ever on the ATP Tour until his son Casper surpassed him in February 2020.

The likelihood is the preferred clay court player will again line out on one of the show courts as he faces the plucky Brit Liam Broady in the next round. But like many eyes in Wimbledon, they are fixed on Djokovic.

“I think he just has taken like defensive tennis on to a new level,” said Ruud. “The way he moves and the way he’s able to counterpunch and counterattack from deep, out to the side of the court, and it’s just really tough to kind of hit winners against him, because he moves well and he gets to certain shots and balls that you don’t think that he will get to.”

Russian Andrey Rublev is also still in the mix with a first round win over Australia’s Max Purcell. Ranked seven in the world, Rublev punched through without great discomfort 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

“Of course I was nervous,” said the flaming red-haired 25-year-old. “The first match is always. You don’t know what to expect. Like I said, after the practice courts the match ones are a bit different. So you stress a bit more. Plus it was windy.”

Although inside the top 10 players, Rublev has never got further than the quarter-finals in any of the Grand Slams, with his best at Wimbledon the fourth round in 2021.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times