Roger Federer has opened his 18th consecutive Wimbledon challenge with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 win over Argentina’s Guido Pella.
The Swiss third seed, bidding for an eighth Wimbledon title at the age of 34, struggled to shake off a gutsy opponent before his class prevailed.
More importantly, he showed no sign of the back injury that forced him to miss the French Open, ending his run of 65 consecutive appearances at grand slam tournaments.
“I worked so hard to be here,” Federer said.
“My hope was to be here fully fit. No one knows, not even myself. But we’ll see.”
Federer next plays world No. 772 Marcus Willis of Britain.
Willis proved the unlikeliest of home Wimbledon heroes, sealing a fairytale 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory over Ricardas Berankis, ranked more than 700 places up above him.
Under the watchful gaze of new coach and tennis royalty John McEnroe, Canadian sixth seed Milos Raonic got off to a solid start with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-4 win over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
While the big-serving 25-year-old was not at the powerful best that took him to his first grasscourt final at Queen’s just over a week ago, his class overwhelmed Busta.
Much of the attention on Court Two was devoted to three-times Wimbledon champion McEnroe, who slipped into the players’ box when Raonic was 3-2 up in a close first set.
Raonic, hoping to better his 2014 semi-final appearance when he lost to Roger Federer, took the second set with a cheeky lob over the Spaniard, ranked 46th in the world. The Canadian needed seven match points to seal the match in the third.
Grigor Dimitrov used to tire of being labelled ‘Baby Fed’ so his slide out of the limelight at least spared him the awkward comparison with the Swiss great as he prepared for Wimbledon.
There were signs that the Bulgarian was starting to rediscover the form that took him past Andy Murray into the Wimbledon semi-finals two years ago.
Unseeded and cast out to Wimbledon’s Court 16 to face American Bjorn Fratangelo, Dimitrov, the one-time boyfriend of Maria Sharapova, won 6-3 6-4 6-2 to reach the second round.
It snapped a sequence of five first-round defeats for the 25-year-old who is still to reach the heights many predicted after he won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008.
Novak Djokovic has opened his bid for a third straight Wimbledon title and a fifth successive Grand Slam with a straight-sets win over Britain’s James Ward.