WIMBLEDON, England – Roger Federer swatted a stray ball toward a ball girl but misjudged the distance, and his leisurely lob bounced past her and over the backstop into a photo pit, drawing titters from the Wimbledon crowd.
Federer's first-round match was a laugher. Aside from the errant lob, he had few lapses and drubbed Spaniard Albert Ramos with stylish symmetry Monday, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.
Consigned to Court 1, an unusual setting for a six-time champion, Federer played with his characteristic verve on grass. Ramos has never won a match on the surface, and it showed.
"Maybe he isn't the most experienced grass-court player out there, that's for sure," Federer said. "I was able to take advantage of it and play a very clean match. It's always nice to save energy, and it gives you confidence as well to close out matches easily. Things worked out perfectly."
The winner of a record 16 Grand Slam championships, Federer has gone 2½ years without one, and at age 30 he's eager to show he can still mount a title run. He has a chance to equal the Wimbledon record of seven titles set by William Renshaw in the 1880s and tied by Pete Sampras in 2000.
For the first time since 2003, Federer didn't play his opening-round match on Centre Court. Seeded third behind Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, he declined to interpret the court assignment as a slight.
"I expected it," he said. "I figured if I won, they would have to put me on Centre Court. That's how I tried to understand the situation. I don't mind it.
"You want to get to Centre Court. If you make it down the stretch, you will get your Centre Court matches. But it was as nice on Court 1 today."
As defending champion, Djokovic opened on Centre Court and beat former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon champion, plays his first match Tuesday on Centre Court against Thomaz Bellucci.
For Federer, the Court 1 stands were full, and lines formed outside as fans waited to replace departing spectators.
The crowd greeted Federer with a warm ovation.
"Absolutely special, because you do realize the moment you walk onto the court that it is a different place here than any other — just the respectful clapping, no music," he said. "The whole thing is very much focused on the players and on the sport, which is beautiful.
"Today obviously the court played perfectly. It was virtually brand new in terms of the way the grass was. That felt special in its own way."
Confident he would get a consistent bounce, Federer turned the match into a master class while deploying his full arsenal, which included pinpoint serves, curling forehands, deft half volleys and acrobatic overheads. He won 20-shot rallies and points lasting only as long as it took him to hit an ace.
Once Federer built a big lead, he experimented by charging the net often. He played 18 serve-and-volley points, once a common tactic at Wimbledon but a rarity these days.
"Obviously being up, you don't feel any pressure doing it," Federer said. "It's rare to be up in the scoreline like today on a regular basis. It is maybe why it is a good time to try it out. Then you can use it in tougher moments, difficult moments, to throw your opponents off. Who knows if I'll need it down the stretch? We'll see."
Federer's second-round opponent will be Fabio Fognini of Italy. He could face No. 8-seeded Janko Tipsarevic in the quarterfinals, followed by his two nemeses — Djokovic in the semifinals and Nadal in the final.