Roger Federer started his title defense against the third-highest ranked Serbian tennis player, Dusan Lajovic. The 20-time Grand Slam champion defeated his opponent 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.

Federer stands alone as the only man who captured the Wimbledon trophy eight times (03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 09, 12, 17) and is seeking his ninth title, which would bring his total Grand Slam tally to 21. He took a three months break after the 2018 Miami Open, skipping the clay court season, in order to focus on the tournaments that take place later in the year. He came back at the beginning of June, playing 9 matches in 12 days, capturing his 98th tour-level title in Stuttgart, before finishing runner-up to Borna Coric at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle. His level, especially at the latter tournament, was not exactly impressive and although he comes into Wimbledon as a favorite, the 36-year old’s isn’t expected to be as NID (never in doubt) as it was last year (didn’t lose a single set, dropped serve just four times).

Federer after his 2017 Wimbledon win

One of the opponents the Swiss faced during his last year’s campaign was no one else than Dusan Lajovic. The Serbian started well and broke Federer in the second game to go up 2-0. He failed to consolidate the break but kept up with his opponent up until the first set tie-break. Federer managed to raise his level who reeled off a perfect 7-0 tie-breaker victory. Since that, the match lost all its drama and the Swiss cruised to a 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 win. Lajovic had an excellent clay court season (at least for his standards) reaching the semifinals at Lyon and the quarterfinals at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Madrid (defeated Gasquet, Khachanov and Del Potro). However, he hasn’t done well on grass in the past, he holds just two Wimbledon main draw wins and his warm-up tournament in Antalya also didn’t go great (defeated Filip Horansky, lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili).

Dusan Lajovic at the 2016 French Open

Not so important note: Federer’s first match being sponsored by Uniqlo (who offered him thrice as much Nike did for renewing his contract).

Anyway, back to the match. From the get-go, it was clear that this isn’t the same Federer we saw in Halle. Wimbledon grass seems to be a kind of a magical place for him. Lajovic opened the match with a very good hold, getting the last point with a stunning full-stretch volley, but from then on Federer reeled off six straight games.  I’ll just let the stats expert Craig O’Shanessy tell it for me:

Exactly, full control. Federer was just very relaxed, once again showing he has every shot in the book – chip and charge returning, there was a “banana-like” forehand down the line, a no-look backhand flick passing shot, a half-volley forehand deep down the line – a wide variety of shots but they had one thing in common. That thing was that they were working. Everything seemed to be clicking for Federer, who broke again to and consolidated to go up 3-0 in the second set. Lajovic finally got back on the scoreboard and managed to loosen up a bit, holding three times but the break advantage was too much and the Swiss took the second set 6-3.

The Serbian gave away another break at the very beginning of the third part of the match. With each lost game, he got increasingly frustrated and it was hard to imagine he could pull off a stunning comeback here. A question we can ask ourselves is – why last year this match was so much closer? I remember watching the match and I’m not really sure. I’m pretty convinced Lajovic’s serve was a lot better but when it comes to groundstrokes? – I’d have to rewatch that. I actually even wrote a recap of that match last year – didn’t remember that fact – here it is, but to be fair I don’t think that’s top-notch writing, I’m kinda scared to read it. Fun fact: An eighth one was indeed on the way. Back to the match, Lajovic kept on holding, but once again the break at the beginning proved to be crucial. Federer took the match 6-1, 6-3, 6-4, not facing a single break point and losing just 11 points on serve.

It’s sometimes easy to make a mistake when watching a top player beating a “journeyman”. The mistake I’m talking about is that it might not be the top player playing that well, but maybe the other guy allows him to? However, I’m pretty certain I’m not wrong here – this truly was a very dominant performance from the Swiss and with this form he shows why he is the oddsmaker’s favorite to capture the title.

Federer will face the winner of a match between Lukas Lacko and Benjamin Bonzi. Lacko has just finished runner-up to Mischa Zverev at the grass-court tournament in Eastbourne, while Bonzi came through the qualifying event, defeating James Ward three sets to one in the final round. Federer has never faced Bonzi, but he played Lacko twice, scoring comfortable victories at the 2011 Australian Open and the 2014 French Open.