Saturday 10 December 2016

Winged spectator gets birds eye view of Novak Djokovic's victory at Wimbledon

Tom Allnutt

Published 29/06/2015 | 18:59

Serbia's Novak Djokovic tries to shoo a bird from the court during his men's singles first round match against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber on day one of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships
Serbia's Novak Djokovic tries to shoo a bird from the court during his men's singles first round match against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber on day one of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships

Novak Djokovic was grateful for the support of a "bird from Belgrade" after a mischievous sparrow flew on to Centre Court and watched the world number one defeat Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets at Wimbledon.

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Djokovic was given little trouble by Kohlschreiber, winning 6-4 6-4 6-4 to move into the second round at SW19, but the defending champion was unable to dislodge a boisterous bird that strutted around the tram-line for most of the match.

"From where I come from, from the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, there's a special sparrow bird - I believe this bird came all the way from Belgrade to help me," Djokovic said.

"But I was feeling for its safety honestly a few times. I couldn't not notice it. I mean it just loves tennis, I guess.

"At one point Kohlschreiber was serving at the advantage side, between the first and second serve, and the bird landed literally very close to the sideline.

"She stayed there until I won that point. So I said, 'Be my guest, stay around, if you want.'

"It was funny to see that. We had birds, mostly birds and different animals come in and out from the court, but the sparrow bird from Belgrade really stayed for the entire match."

It was Djokovic's first competitive match since his shock defeat to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final three weeks ago and, while the Serbian made an unusual number of unforced errors early on, he insisted he felt sharp after his extended break.

"Did I feel any rust? Not much," Djokovic said.

"Honestly, I thought I started the match really well, breaking Philipp, losing the serve right away.

"All three sets were decided in the 10th game. After I broke him to win the first set and the second set, it was the same situation.

"I felt like in the third, as well, that's where maybe I can have a mental edge over him. He missed a couple of shots.

"I thought my return was exceptionally good from my side, serving efficiently - just overall a great performance against a quality opponent."

Djokovic, who now faces Finland's Jarkko Nieminen in the second round, has come under fire after his coach Boris Becker suggested they had secret signals to communicate with each other during matches.

ATP rules state players are not allowed to receive "communications of any kind, audible or visible" during a tournament match and Djokovic was visibly annoyed when the issue was brought up again.

"I don't understand what you really want," Djokovic said.

"Do you want to say I'm cheating, my team? I'm really trying to figure out what's behind this.

"I mean, are you asking only me or are you asking other players, as well?

"I don't understand what I can say, what I haven't said already before. I'm going to repeat myself.

"I'm going to say that there are certain ways of communication which is encouragement, which is support, which is understanding the moment when to 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 added: "Of course, I accept the fact if my coach, Boris or Marian, do something that is against the rules, I have no complaint about the code violation that I get for coaching."

Hoping to play Djokovic in the second round was Lleyton Hewitt, but the Australian's final appearance at SW19 ended in a marathon five-set defeat as Nieminen won 3-6 6-3 4-6 6-0 11-9.

Hewitt has announced his decision to retire after the Australian Open next year and the 2002 Wimbledon champion put in a typically gutsy display, saving three match points before his resistance finally gave way after four hours.

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka, fresh from his success at the French Open, is also through after he beat Portugal's Joao Sousa in straight sets while fifth seed Kei Nishikori needed five to beat Italy's Simone Bolelli.

There were also victories on day one for Croatia's Marin Cilic, Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov and Canadian Milos Raonic.

Andy Murray plays his opening round match against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin on Tuesday with fellow Britons Aljaz Bedene, James Ward, Kyle Edmund and Brydan Klein also in action.

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