At last, after all the build-up, the will he won’t he arrive and then the washout of yesterday, Novak Djokovic finally completed his first match on the grass at Devonshire Park.
It took the world No.4 one-hour and 25 minutes to see off big-serving Canadian Vasek Pospisil in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 in front of a near capacity crowd on centre court.
Djokovic was smiling and upbeat throughout a match played in good spirits with Pospisil, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2015, more than playing his part.
Speaking courtside Djokovic said, “I’ve enjoyed myself very much. Not so much yesterday as we were waiting for the rain to stop. It’s a wonderful little town. “We are just on the beach. On the sunny day the other day there was a lot more to do the other day. Do not underestimate this centre court. It’s a beautiful venue. It’s a pleasure to be here.
“I’ve been to Beachy Head. It does wonders. Hopefully it works for me this week. It’s a beautiful centre court. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Job done. Not only had Novak passed his first test on grass with minimal fuss - he didn’t drop a service game - but with a few well-chosen words he instantly endeared himself to the fans at Devonshire Park.
It still seems surreal, 12-time Grand Slam champion strolling around Devonshire Park, hoping a change of scenery can kick-start his season. Earlier this month at the French Open, he was eager to rush off court as he suffered a straight sets defeat to young Austrian Dominic Thiem in the quarter finals.
It prompted a major re-think ahead of Wimbledon but few expected the 30-year-old to rock up at Eastbourne. Djokovic and his team, complete with vegan chef, arrived at the Grand Hotel last Saturday. He has managed many hitting sessions on the practice courts of Devonshire Park and also the excellent grass courts at the nearby ROMPA Tennis Club and the David Lloyd.
The Aegon International is predominantly known as a women’s event and over the years it has welcomed the likes of Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Amelie Mauresmo. Andy Roddick, in the twilight his career, arrived in 2012 and still had enough power in his creaking right shoulder to serve his way to the men’s title in a final against Andreas Seppi.
But Djokovic, who just last year became only the third man to hold all four major titles at once, is quite easily the biggest name the men’s event has attracted in it’s history.
Against Pospisil, he eased his way back into tournament tennis. His only wobble came at 2-2 in the second where he defended a break point thanks to some great defensive tennis. It was a point he had no right to win but as he struck the winner, he flung his hands in the air in celebration, the crowd roared and Devonshire Park had a new favourite, Novak Djokovic.