The lawns of the All England Club had been rolled and cut to perfection. The sun bounced off the 8mm blades of rye grass, each standing at attention as if royalty itself would grace them.
No kings, queens, princes, dukes, duchesses or otherwise titled monarchy walked on any of the 41 (total) grass courts at Wimbledon today, as the 138th edition of the most prestigious major got under way.
Novak Djokovic, defending champion and No. 1 seed, articulated the essence of Wimbledon the best after defeating what had expected to be a difficult match against unseeded Philipp Kohlschreiber but ended up a straight set romp, 6-4 6-4 6-4, for the Serbian. Novak said, “It’s the cradle of our sport.”
Here are a few highlights from today …
Lleyton Hewitt bid farewell to Wimbledon. Having first played at SW19 in 1999, the 34-year-old Australian legend went the distance against Finland’s finest, Jarko Niemenen, suffering the loss millions would have wanted to postpone, 3-6 6-3 4-6 6-0 11-9. Hewitt will officially retire from the tour following the 2016 Australian Open.
“That pretty much sums up my career,” Hewitt said, the BBC reported. “I’m fortunate that I have a lot of self motivation to go out there and get the most out of myself, whether it’s in the gym or behind the scenes. I’m so fortunate.”
Hewitt won The Championships in 2002 and became a permanent member of The All England Club as a result. “For me to be able to go in the member’s locker room four weeks before Wimbledon, in there with some of the older members, sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat, it’s a lot of fun,” Hewitt added.
Hewitt’s debut at Wimbledon was not in singles. He played doubles with Roger Federer in their debut to this grand stage.
Federer praised Hewitt, calling him a ‘grass-court pioneer,’ according to abc.net.
“It’s been always tough against him on this surface,” Federer said, abc.net reported. “He was the first guy really from the baseline to have such a major impact. Lleyton was really every point from there. He showed an entire generation how it can be done.”
Hewitt is second only to Federer with regard to grass court titles for active players. Federer has 15 and Hewitt has 8.
Federer called Hewitt a ‘feisty competitor,’ in the same article. “Playing against him has been cool at times, not always so much fun,” Federer added. Perhaps the man seeking his 8th Wimbledon title this fortnight was referring to his loss to Hewitt in the 2010 final of Halle, a tournament Federer has now won for a record 8 times.
Hewitt’s loss overshadowed Nieminen’s win. However, we should note that the 34-year-old also has plans to retire at the end of this year.
Venus Williams might be 34, but she sure isn’t done with her favorite surface. Williams, seeded No. 16, sent American Madison Brengle for more than a recovery bowl of strawberries and cream with a 6-0 6-0 trouncing in 42 minutes. Not to be outdone, Andrea Petkovic (No. 14) thumped another American, Shelby Rogers, 6-0 6-0, in 38 minutes.
Next up for the 5-time Wimbledon champion Williams is Yulia Putintseva. This is the five-foot-four Russian’s second appearance; the first was in 2013 when she lost in the first round. Although short in a land of giants, “Poots,” is a scrambler and fighter.
Thirty-one of 32 matches on the top half of the women’s draw went off like a finely timed Rolex watch today. Only Heather Watson of Great Britain and Caroline Garcia (No. 32) didn’t make it through before darkness forced them to come back Tuesday. All 32 matches scheduled from the top-half of the men’s singles draw were completed, as well.
Falling seeds … The highest seed to pack her bags today was Carla Suarez Navarro (No. 9). She lost to Wildcard Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-2 6-0. Suarez Navarro has had a stellar year, reaching the quarterfinal or better of 11 out of 14 tournaments she has entered. She lost to Serena Williams in the final of Miami and Maria Sharapova in the final of Rome, which is played on the Spaniard’s preferred surface … red clay. Also out are Flavia Pennetta (No. 24) and Barbora Strycova (No. 27).
On the men’s side, 33 year-old veteran Tommy Robredo (No. 19) is out (right), giving Australian Qualifier John Millman the biggest win of his career, 6-2 6-3 6-4. Pablo Cuevas (No. 28) lost to American Wildcard Denis Kudla in a 5-set tussle.
And finally, all stand in celebration of Tommy Haas. The 37-year-old German is on to the second round after a 4-set win over a very capable, Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-2. Haas has been off the tour for 17 months as he recovered from yet another operation on his right shoulder. Haas first played Wimbledon in 1997. His best performance came in 2009, when he reached the semifinals. Next up for Haas is Canadian Milos Raonic. The No. 7 seed will be a tall order for Haas, but as we all know it’s not over until the last ball’s struck.