London (AFP) – Troubled Novak Djokovic made a strong start to his Wimbledon preparations with a 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Australian qualifier John Millman at Queen’s Club on Tuesday, while Andy Murray prepared to return to action after almost a year on the sidelines.
Djokovic is a lowly 22nd in the ATP rankings after an embarrassing French Open quarter-final defeat against Italian journeyman Marco Cecchinato extended his wretched run in 2018.
The 31-year-old Serb, hampered by an elbow injury last year, has failed to reach the semi-finals in any of his last five Grand Slam appearances.
Djokovic hasn’t earned a major title since competing his career Grand Slam by winning the 2016 French Open.
Dogged by rumours that he no longer has the motivation to return to the top, the 12-time Grand Slam winner decided to start his bid for a fourth Wimbledon crown by accepting a Queen’s wild card.
With Wimbledon starting on July 2, Djokovic was desperate to improve his lacklustre 14-8 record in 2018.
And, in his first appearance at Queen’s since 2010, Djokovic was quickly in the groove on grass as he romped to a first round win in 65 minutes.
Breaks in the fifth and seventh games sealed a one-sided first set.
Barely tested by the world number 63, Djokovic broke twice in the first five games of the second set to see off Millman with ease.
A sterner test lies in wait for Djokovic in the second round against 2017 ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov.
World number five Dimitrov beat Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 in his opening match as the Bulgarian bids to win Queen’s for the second time.
Later on Tuesday, former world number one Murray will finally set onto court for a competitive match for the first time since his Wimbledon quarter-final defeat against Sam Querrey 342 days ago.
– Low expectations –
Troubled by a serious hip injury, Murray hobbled away from the All England Club at the end of that painful day, heading for 11 months out of action.
The 31-year-old Scot underwent hip surgery in January after pulling out of the Australian Open and endured several aborted comeback attempts before finally declaring himself fit to play at Queen’s.
Murray has won Queen’s a record five times and has never lost to Kyrgios in his five meetings with the volatile Australian.
But the two-time Wimbledon champion, whose ranking has plummeted to 156, insisted he didn’t expect to make a flying start after so long on the treatment table.
“In terms of my expectations, they are extremely low. I’m not expecting to win against Kyrgios,” Murray said.
“I don’t think it would be right to think that way after such a long time out, but obviously I want to be competitive.”
In other first round action on Tuesday, former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic was leading 6-1, 3-1 when Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri retired due to a knee injury.
Next up for Canada’s Raonic, who reached the Stuttgart final last weekend, is reigning Queen’s champion Feliciano Lopez or Belgian fourth seed David Goffin.
South African third seed Kevin Anderson suffered a surprise 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) defeat by Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer.