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Novak Djokovic has praised fans at Wimbledon after admitting he was "pleasantly surprised" by the crowd reception during his opening round win against Korea's Kwon Soon-woo.
The six-time Wimbledon champion was all smiles on centre court after shaking off some rustiness and indifferent recent form to kick off his title defence in record-breaking mode.
Seeking a fourth successive Wimbledon title, Djokovic was made to work for his laborious 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory under the centre court roof on a rainy opening day.
The No.1 seed, out of sorts at times, still notched up an extraordinary new milestone, becoming the first player - man or woman - to record at least 80 singles victories at all four grand slams.
The crowd at the All England Club were quick to recognise and congratulate Djokovic on the incredible feat, in spite of a dramatic year in which his anti-Covid vaccination stance has made the 20-times grand slam champion a polarising figure.
"I was very pleasantly surprised, I mean, in a positive way. I felt support," Djokovic said after his first round win.
"I thought they were very fair to me. I enjoyed my time very much on the court."
Novak wins his 80th Grand Slam match,making history again. Not an easy match but to be expected after no grass warm-up except one at Hurlingham last week. He beat Kwon 3:1
Onto the 2nd round, idemo ❤️🔥 And the crowd were loving him!#NoleFam #Wimbledon2022 #djokovic𓃵
📸 BBC TV pic.twitter.com/wIqITwAG8G
— NovakDjokovicUKFan - Linda🐊🦋🐺 #djokovic𓃵 (@DjokovicUk) June 27, 2022
— Eleanor✨Djokovic (@DjokovicEleanor) June 27, 2022
Don't know why anybody was talking about Novak Djokovic being booed at Wimbledon.
British crowds are some of best in the world for appreciating good sport.
It's also culture to give underdog some support.
Even Nadal won't have it all his own way from the crowd when he plays. https://t.co/MhvZsMTwNd
— Sam Street (@samstreetwrites) June 27, 2022
John McEnroe, on the BBC, suggested Djokovic might have felt "bummed out" after his experiences in 2022, which started with his detention before the Australian Open, before he was deported and left unable to defend his title.
"Yes and no. Yes, because I've experienced something that I've never experienced in my life in Australia," Djokovic said.
"So this post-Australian period of next several months was challenging emotionally for me.
"The sensation of coming back on the court with everything that happened post-Australia, particularly first few tournaments, was a different feel. Not very pleasant to me."
"(But) in terms of my motivation on the court, it hasn't changed much, to be honest.
"Right now, I don't feel the traces of that any more. I move on."
Novak Djokovic sets up Thanasi Kokkinakis showdown
With his 22nd straight win at Wimbledon stretching back to 2017, Djokovic set up a dream second-round date for Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, a straight-sets victor over Poland's Kamil Majchrzak.
And Djokovic got a vote of support from another Australian Max Purcell, who wants to see him back at Melbourne Park next year.
"What's the point of playing without the best guy in the tournament? I mean, that's why you play - to beat the best," said first-round victim Purcell.
"So if he's not playing, then it's not great."
In the tournament's first big shock, seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz, semi-finalist last year, lost 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 5-7 2-6 7-6 (10-8) to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Victory for the young Spaniard, though, only came after he'd nearly paid the price for a cavalier baseline tweener when holding three match points at 5-3 for a straight-sets win.
Teenage rocket man Carlos Alcaraz, the youngest male in the draw at 19, clawed back from two sets to one down before finally subduing big-hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.
French Open finalist Casper Ruud, the No.3 seed despite previously having lost four of his career tally of just six grass-court matches, battled through his opener for a maiden Wimbledon win, beating Spanish grinder Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (11-9) 6-2.
In a battle of the generations, Italian gun Jannik Sinner achieved his maiden win on grass, beating Swiss three-time slam winner Stan Wawrinka 7-5 4-6 6-3 6-2.
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