Independent only since 1991 and boasting a population of little more than four million, Croatia has failed to qualify for a World Cup just once in the past 20 years, so in such a small country it would be understandable if football took up all its sporting attention, yet, in another of the world’s biggest and most commercially appealing sports, it has also produced two Grand Slam tennis champions and is represented at this year’s Wimbledon by no fewer than 10 men and six women in their respective singles draws.

Nor are they merely making up the numbers, led as they are by former US Open champion Marin Cilic who set out by bullying the relatively diminutive Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka off No.2 Court in little more than an hour and a half, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Last year’s beaten finalist, the former US Open champion’s victory at Queen’s last month offered the latest evidence that he may yet fulfil the potential that had been evident even before he reached the fourth round here as a teenager a decade ago and he is certainly the most obvious threat to Federer in his half of the draw this time around, the third seed seemed thoroughly at ease with life yesterday, in spite of being put through the mill by his compatriots the previous evening.

“Croatia’s match was a big drama last night. We were on the edge of our seats and it was not easy to follow the penalties and still three matches to go, but we have to take it match by match,” he observed, beaming broadly.

The same obviously applies at Wimbledon, but he feels that the Queen’s experience has prepared him for the adjustment to grass and for all that there was natural nervousness, he could not have reacquainted himself with the surface more comfortably, always in control of the match, but getting some better competition from his opponent after a one-sided opening set.

“Especially coming into the Grand Slam you are always feeling the nerves and especially playing the first match. Luckily I opened really nicely and got a double break in the first set and Yoshihito later in the second and third showed good tennis,” said Cilic.

By contrast another of his compatriots, Borna Coric, reverted to type after having shocked Federer when beating him in the final at Halle, where the reigning champion traditionally warms up for Wimbledon, the 21-year-old admitting he had surprised himself with that tournament win and pointing out both that it was a different type of grass which suits him better than Wimbledon’s and that he had previously won just two matches on the sport’s original playing surface after he lost in less than two hours to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2.

There was, though, another major Croat success on the day as Donna Vekic, whose comfort on grass was demonstrated when she beat Johanna Konta in last year’s final at Nottingham, allowed fourth seed Sloane Stephens just four games. The current US Open champion, Stephens also reached the final of the French Open last month, but the American has a poor record on grass and, noting that she had struggled with the way the ball stays lower than on the clay, raadily accepted that she had been beaten by the better grass court player.