Roger Federer had to come from a set down against Lloyd Harris to commence his record-breaking 21st Wimbledon campaign with a victory on Centre Court on Tuesday.
Harris, ranked 86th in the world and making his main-draw debut at this slam, became the first player since Alejandro Falla in 2010 to deny Federer the opening set of a first-round match at the All England Club, but the eight-time champion ended up surging to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 triumph.
The rangy South African's confident start suggested an upset could be on the cards. However, he was unable to build on it and, as he struggled with a left calf issue, the classy Federer stormed into round two for the 17th successive year in an hour and 50 minutes.
Harris served well and had a chance to break when the Swiss went long with a backhand in game six - another error from the second seed converted it for him. A stunning cross-court forehand winner stopped Federer getting back on serve and the 37-year-old found himself a set down when his backhand flew beyond the baseline.
Federer produced a clever drop shot before moving 3-1 up in the second and he followed a lovely backhand slice with a volley at the net for three break points in game six. Harris failed to keep him at bay when he sent a routine forehand into the net and he was a break down in the third after Federer smashed his scooped half-volley past him.
The 22-year-old saved a pair of break points before succumbing due to a wide forehand down the line and he took a medical time-out after his opponent closed out the third set.
There was no stopping Federer and a trademark one-handed backhand enabled him to win against the serve in game three of the fourth. A searing cross-court forehand – his 40th winner of the match – preceded a second break for Federer, who ended up enjoying routine passage into the second round.
Meanwhile, Marin Cilic beat Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, while Lucas Pouille defeated fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Caspur Ruud lost to John Isner 3-6, 4-6, 6-7 (9-11) on Court 2.
Asked if he felt nervous in the first set, Federer said: "I think it's a combination of a few things. I didn't feel necessarily nervous at all during the day before. I think once I got going, just the legs weren't moving and things were not happening.
"It is always slightly unusual [for the] first two to three matches here at Wimbledon, they're always so different to any other court in the world, the way the ball bounces, the kick goes or doesn't go.
"I just felt like it was slow. I couldn't really have any impact. He was doing a good job of returning me. I don't think I had an ace in the first two sets maybe. I had two in the first three sets.
"It wasn't like I was serving poorly. I guess I wasn't hitting my spots, and he was reading my serve, or he was just doing a good job.
"I think in that connection, I just struggled. As my legs weren't moving, it's hard to see the short ball. In defence you're weak. The next thing you know you're struggling. That's what I had going.
"But I think with my experience I stayed calm. I know I have other things in the bag that I can come up with, other tricks. I just took a bit of time," he said.
Federer suggested the court added to his feeling of sluggishness early on, though he was keen not to appear too critical.
"I was also thinking during the game if it was the slowest ever. But then I was, like, probably not. It's probably me that is moving like a snail out here," he said with a smile.
"Over time, I get nine aces at the end, I know Lloyd maybe wasn't moving all that well anymore. I started to pick up my rhythm. Things started to become more normal.
"I mean, one thing is for sure: the people who do the job here on the grass courts, they do an amazing job. They make this court so perfect. It actually becomes a bit too simple to play off the baseline.
"I feel like it's a bit of everything. I have to get used to it. I definitely think Wimbledon has not been the fastest overall," he added.
Roger Federer  bt Lloyd Harris 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-2
Federer – 42/14
Harris – 17/27
Federer – 9/1
Harris – 5/3
BREAK POINTS WON
Federer – 6/12
Harris – 1/1
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Federer – 56
Harris – 60
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Federer – 80/79
Harris – 63/45
Federer – 106
Harris – 71
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