James Ward recovered from an “ugly start” to give world No 1 Novak Djokovic a decent test to start the defence of his Wimbledon title.
On paper it was a complete mismatch between the Serb, a man who holds all four grand slam trophies and has not lost at Wimbledon since 2013, and a British wild card ranked 177.
It looked that way as Djokovic romped through the first nine games but, having got on the board, Ward pushed his illustrious opponent hard and it took the top seed two hours and three minutes to clinch a 6-0 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 victory.
“It was an ugly start,” said Ward. “The more the games go on, you start panicking, especially against a guy who is making so many balls. Everything you hit is coming back.
“I’m proud of myself the way I turned it around because it could have been ugly.”
Londoner Ward chose to see the positives from his draw even though his ranking will now drop further after he reached the third round last year.
And walking out on Centre Court for the opening match of the tournament is not something he will forget.
“Obviously it was an unbelievable day,” said the 29-year-old.
“I’ve spent a bit of time at Wimbledon. Now I’m a member and I’ve been out on that court when no one’s around, just to have a look.
“When it’s full up and everyone is cheering for you, you’re playing against the world No 1, it’s a day you remember for the rest of your life.
“I just didn’t want to get back home and regret anything. I think I made the most of my chance.”
Marin Cilic, former US Open winner, dumped out of the French at the first-round stage last month by Marco Trungelliti, beat American Brian Baker 6-3 7-5 6-3 on Court 12.
Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber was unable to match him and was the first seed to fall in the men’s draw on the opening day.
The 32-year-old, competing in his 12th straight Wimbledon, lost in four sets to Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the US Open doubles champion. A 7-5 6-3 3-6 6-3 defeat for Kohlschreiber not only means an early exit, but also that he has gone home in the first round of all three grand slams in 2016.
Spain’s David Ferrer was highly impressive as he beat Dudi Sela on Court Three.
The highest-ranked Spaniard owing to Rafael Nadal’s absence, Ferrer dropped only four games as he won 6-2 6-1 6-1.
Qualifier Lukas Lacko pipped Paolo Lorenzi in four sets, while Ivo Karlovic went to a tie break for the 25th and 26th times this season, winning them both and taking his yearly tally to 14 as he won an all-Croatian battle with Borna Coric.
Grigor Dimitrov looked good as he arrested a six-match losing run against Bjorn Fratangelo 6-3 6-4 6-2 and will next meet the 16th-ranked Gilles Simon, who beat Janko Tipsarevic in four sets.
Forty-six aces were sent down as Sam Querrey went the distance with Lukas Rosol, 33 of them from the American’s racket. He lost the first two sets on tie-breaks but recovered to triumph 6-7 (6/8) 6-7 (5/7) 6-4 6-2 12-10.
Denis Istomin saw off Kevin Anderson, the 24th seed, and Briton Brydan Klein lost to Nicolas Mahut.
World No 223 Ekaterina Alexandrova made light of her grand slam inexperience to send Ana Ivanovic sliding out. The 21-year-old Russian qualified for one of the majors at the first attempt last week, and made an immediate impression on the big stage with a 6-2 7-5 victory on Court 12.
Five-time champion Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Samantha Stosur were among those winning through to the second round.
Veteran eighth seed Williams fended off tenacious Croatian Donna Vekic on Court One, finally edging their clash 7-6 (7/3) 6-4, while fellow American Keys joined her in the last 64 as the ninth seed swept aside Germany’s Laura Siegemund 6-3 6-1.
Vicky Duval burst into tears after just three games of her Wimbledon return, two years after playing the tournament under the dark cloud of cancer.
It was when competing in qualifying for Wimbledon in 2014 that Duval, then 18, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and she bravely played on, reaching the second round in the main draw.
After undergoing chemotherapy the American is healthy again, and playing in London was a giant step on a comeback that has also been delayed by a knee injury.
Duval is battling to regain the fitness required of a professional sportswoman, with the bubbly Florida resident who was tipped for the top until illness struck now down at 572nd in the world rankings.
She was glad to be fit enough to play at Wimbledon, until emotion overcame her in a Court Four clash with Russian 19-year-old Daria Kasatkina.
Duval lost the match 6-0 7-5, being the first player knocked out on the opening day.
“I still have the same goals I had before everything happened,” she said. “I have time on my side.”