Tennis: Djokovic not such an easy rider at Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns to Britain's James Ward in their first round match of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, on June 27, 2016.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns to Britain's James Ward in their first round match of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, on June 27, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) - Novak Djokovic enjoyed a trouble-free start to his Wimbledon title defence Monday (June 27) but fell foul of All England Club safety rules when he was ordered not to ride his bicycle in the grounds.

The world number one got his campaign for a third successive Wimbledon title off to a winning start with a 6-0, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 victory over Britain's James Ward.

But he then admitted he had run into trouble with the tournament's notoriously fussy officials.

The 29-year-old Serb, bidding to become just the second man since Don Budge in 1938 to win five straight majors, was reported to have crashed into a vehicle as he pedalled around the venue.

Despite insisting that was not true, the 12-time Grand Slam title winner did concede that he had been subject to a bike ban.

"I was asked for my own safety not to arrive with the bicycle inside of the All England Club territory," said Djokovic.

"So from the gate of Aorangi (practice courts) where I enter with the bicycle to the transportation desk, which is a little uphill, literally 20 metres, it's very dangerous traffic around there!

"So for my own safety, I accepted their suggestion. I did not use the bicycle ever since to come to the club. But I did not have any kind of truck or supply vehicle accident or something like that that was mentioned in the papers. Not even close, no. Thankfully."

Djokovic did admit, however, that he often has the last laugh on the All England Club by spiriting away extra official tournament towels to give away to friends.

The coveted towels, on sale for 35 euros ($53), are provided for the players for each of their matches.

Despite having banked over US$100 million in prize money, the world number one said he will often tuck one away in his bag.

"I try to sneak in an extra towel here and there during the match, using the excuse that it's too warm and I'm sweating," said the top seed and champion in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

"I'm sure the All England Club Committee will forgive me for that extra towel per match." He added: "It makes a lot of people happy back in my country, the ones that are close to me. It's great memorabilia."

Djokovic, who holds all four majors, next faces France's Adrian Mannarino for a place in the last 32.

After clinching a first French Open title earlier this month, he is on target for the tennis record books.

A successful defence of his Wimbledon title would put him three-quarters of the way to becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar Grand Slam.