London: Five-time champion Novak Djokovic overcame a series of falls on Centre Court to reach the Wimbledon third round for the 15th time on Wednesday as Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios won his first match in four months.
World number one Djokovic, chasing a sixth Wimbledon and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title, eased to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over 102nd-ranked Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
However, he slipped and fell on at least five occasions on Centre Court, the day after Serena Williams suffered a tearful, tournament-ending injury due to similar slips.
Djokovic, 34, cruised to victory over the man he defeated in the 2018 final without facing a single break point and committing just six unforced errors.
“I have a nice connection with the crowd,” said Djokovic.
“I also seem to be having a really nice connection with the grass. I don’t recall falling so much in the first two matches at Wimbledon.”
Kyrgios, ranked 60, but a quarter-finalist on debut in 2014, won his first match since the Australian Open in February, defeating French 21st seed Ugo Humbert before declaring: “Not bad for a part-time player”.
Kyrgios triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 9-7 in a match held over from Tuesday evening when the final set was level at 3-3.
“Ugo is an incredible kid and I knew I was a massive underdog,” said Kyrgios after firing 23 aces and 51 winners.
Kyrgios also shrugged off an ugly-looking fall in the 13th game of the final set when his right knee buckled beneath him.
On Tuesday, he was overheard muttering that Court One was “a joke”.
As the tournament played catch-up after two days hit by rain, recriminations continued over the state of the All England Club courts.
Williams said she was “heartbroken” to have had to withdraw as her pursuit of Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles was again thwarted.
Her fall came not long after French player Adrian Mannarino had slipped and hurt himself on the same part of Centre Court.
He too had to retire with his match against Roger Federer level at two sets apiece.
Despite the criticism, the All England Club insisted that the courts are up to standard. “The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years,” the club said in a statement.
“The weather conditions on the opening two days have been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade, which has required the roof to be closed on Centre Court and No.1 Court for long periods.
“This is at a time when the grass plant is at its most lush and green, which does result in additional moisture on what is a natural surface.”
In all, 80 singles matches were scheduled for Wednesday.
French 13th seed Gael Monfils defeated Australia’s Christopher O’Connell 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 in a first round tie which had started on Monday.
Fifth seeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada was knocked out 6-2, 6-1 by France’s Alize Cornet.
Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, is still to win a main draw match at Wimbledon having lost in the first round as a qualifier in 2017.
Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, the champion at Queen’s and tipped to go deep at Wimbledon, edged Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a two-time quarter-finalist, claimed his 100th Grand Slam match win by seeing off Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Kei Nishikori, Japan, def. Alexei Popyrin, Australia, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Sam Querrey, United States, def. Pablo Carreno Busta (11), Spain, 7-6 (6), 6-4, 7-5.
Grigor Dimitrov (18), Bulgaria, def. Fernando Verdasco, Spain, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Novak Djokovic (1), Serbia, def. Kevin Anderson, South Africa, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (16), Russia, def. Ana Bogdan, Romania, 6-2, 6-2.
Alize Cornet, France, def. Bianca Andreescu (5), Canada, 6-2, 6-1.
Kristyna Pliskova, Czech Republic, def. Astra Sharma, Australia, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Elina Svitolina (3), Ukraine, def. Alison van Uytvanck, Belgium, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Sorana Cirstea, Romania, def. Samantha Murray Sharan, Britain, 6-3, 6-3.
CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, def. Olga Govortsova, Belarus, 6-4, 6-2.
Daria Kasatkina (31), Russia, def. Patricia Maria Tig, Romania, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.