Carlos Alcaraz begins title defence with straight-sets victory on Centre Court

Carlos Alcaraz got his Wimbledon title defence off to an encouraging start with a straight-sets victory on Centre Court.

The 21-year-old Spaniard, seeded third this year, beat Estonian qualifier Mark Lajal 7-6 (3) 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 22 minutes.

Lajal, also 21 but ranked 266 places lower than Alcaraz, sported dreadlocks pulled back in a pineapple-style ponytail on his Wimbledon debut.

Carlos Alcaraz hits a backhand in front of the Centre Court scoreboard
Carlos Alcaraz is through to the second round (John Walton/PA)

He took a chunk out of the three-time grand slam winner with a break of serve in the opening set.

But Alcaraz, who last month added the French Open to his Wimbledon and US Open titles, hit straight back and then eased through the gears.

“He played a really good match,” said Alcaraz. “Obviously he surprised me a little bit because I hadn’t seen him too much.

“He’s young, he’s my age and I’m sure I’m going to see him really soon on the tour and play him more often.

Mark Lajal hits a sliced forehand on Centre Court
Mark Lajal put up a fight against Carlos Alcaraz (John Walton/PA)

“But I’m really happy to get through and get my first win on Centre Court this year.”

World number one Jannik Sinner, seeded to meet Alcaraz in the semi-finals, dropped a set against German near-namesake Yannick Hanfmann but still eased through.

The 22-year-old, who secured his first grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, triumphed 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a shade under three hours.

He will face a fellow Italian, former finalist Matteo Berrettini, in an eye-catching second-round tie.

Jannik Sinner slides on the grass to hit a forehand
Jannik Sinner is through to the second round (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Fifth seed Daniil Medvedev picked up another win in his “happy” place, beating American Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3 6-4 6-2.

The Russian has never lost a match on Court One, and was only beaten by Alcaraz in the semi-finals last year when he had to switch to Centre Court.

“I’m really happy with my level and I’ve still never lost on Court One, so hopefully I can play a lot more matches on this court,” he said.

“I said last year before the semis that it’s unfortunate I have to go to Centre Court, and I lost.

Daniil Medvedev hits a backhand
Daniil Medvedev eased through (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“This year I got lucky, I managed to practise on Centre before the tournament, so maybe it can give me some edge after, but for the moment I want to play on Court One, enjoy it, and try to win.”

Eighth seed Casper Ruud was a straight-sets winner over Alex Bolt, as was 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov against Dusan Lajovic.

Queen’s Club winner Tommy Paul, the American 12th seed, beat Spaniard Pedro Martinez 6-2 6-1 4-6 6-3.