Tennis / Wimbledon / Djokovic, Federer Test Virgin Grass in the Temple of Tennis

Few surprises in subdued opening day on London lawns.

Top seed Novak Djokovic played at his reverential best on Monday, as the holder took the traditional opening-day spotlight with a subdued but efficient 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory over former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero to mark the start of Wimbledon.

Djokovic, whose lone title on the lawns came a year ago, was joined as a winner by six-time champion Roger Federer, who happily accepted an assignment on court No. 1, where he crushed Spaniard Albert Ramos 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

"You realize the moment you walk onto the court that it is a different place here than any other," said Federer of his secondary showcourt venue. "Just the respectful clap, no music. The whole thing is very much focused on the players and on the sport, which is beautiful. On Tuesday, 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."

Djokovic, defending his title but also in a fight to hold onto his No. 1 ranking in the face of challenges from Rafael Nadal and Federer, was pleased to be playing the opening match of the fortnight, reserved for the men's title holder.

"This is the only tournament that actually allows you to have information 12 months in advance when you're playing. It was great, the grass was untouched," said Djokovic, who jokingly brought a junior golf club out in his new racquet bag, which stands up in the style of a golf bag.

"It was so soft, so smooth. It was great to play on," added Djokovic, who fired 13 aces and broke six times against Ferrero.

The Serb called center court "like a theater in a way."

Long-time question mark Ernests Gulbis suddenly came alive in unexpected fashion with a 7-6 (7-5 ), 7-6 (7-4 ), 7-6 (7-4 ) knockout of sixth seed Tomas Berdych, a 2010 semifinalist. The Latvian had not won an ATP match since early May, but exploded for the biggest upset so far of the fortnight.

Colombia's Alejandro Falla beat U.S. 11th seed John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (7-9 ), 3-6, 7-6 (9-7 ), 7-5 to ensure there was no chance of an Isner-Nicolas Mahut match for a third straight year.

Isner won the longest match ever played in 2010 when he beat the Frenchman 70-68 in the fifth set after three days, and claimed another win in the series a year ago.

Sharapova sails through

In women's play, top seed Maria Sharapova, the French Open winner, started with a defeat of Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 6-2, 6-3.

Polish No. 3 and two-time quarter-finalist Agnieszka Radwanska took a victory over Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-3, while fifth-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur beat Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3.

German eighth seed Angelique Kerber advanced over Czech Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 6-1.

The husband of the 2011 French Open winner, Li Na, was moved from his proper seat by one of the overzealous stewards during her match. But Li survived the distraction to post a defeat of Ksenia Pervak 6-3, 6-1, her second win over the Kazakh in a 2012 Grand Slam after a January victory in Australia.

The 2011 semifinalist and 15th seed Sabine Lisicki started with a win over Croatian Petra Martic 6-4, 6-2.