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Wimbledon kicked off on Monday amidst rising British expectations of Andy Murray breaking the long maintained jinx - the last British player to win the All England Open was Fred Perry in 1936. Murray though wasn't scheduled to play on Monday. The absence of World no.1 Rafael Nadal from the event (on account of a recurring knee problem) has catapulted no.2 seed and 5 time Wimbledon winner Roger Federer to the top of the billing.
After completing a historic Grand Slam at Roland Garros earlier this month, Federer is tipped by many pundits to be the man to beat. He took on Chinese Taipei's Yen-Hsun Lu in what was expected to be a walkover for arguably the greatest player of all time to have graced the tennis world. Federer who had pulled out of pre-Wimbledon practice tournaments at Halle and the Queen's, looked rusty to start with and Lu ran him close in the first set.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Federer first failed to convert four break points in the fourth game and then somehow contrived to get his own serve broken in the next. However Lu couldn't make the most of his opportunity and literally gifted Federer a chance to claw his way back into the match. Federer didn't refuse Lu's generous offer and closed the set with some style, looking more likeÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â his normal brilliant self. With the first set in his kitty, theÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â former champion was in no mood to falter and gave a tennis master class to Lu in the second, who had no real opportunity to make a comeback. The third set was no different as the gulf in class became even more evident. The only scare for the pre-tournament favourite was when he tumbled down on the greens and appeared tohave hurt his ankle. The tension though was short lived as Federer soon rose up and finished the game without any apparent discomfort. The final score was 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in favour of the affable Swiss. With this victory the gauntlet has been thrown to the contenders and with Federer looking razor sharp already, it's going to be some task to keep him away from the trophy.
No.4 seed Novak Djokovic from Serbia also came through a tricky encounter against Frenchman Julien Benneteau. Djokovic had a subdued start to theÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â match and Benneteau seized the opportunity with both hands as he wrapped up the first set inÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â a tie breaker. The first set loss spurred Djokovic on as he displayed some moments of individual brilliance to make a comeback; though he was helped by Benneteau's troubles with his knee. Djokovic wasted 4 match points before finally converting one on his way to winning 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. A contrasting victory when compared to that of Federer, but a victory all the same.
Among the other notable winners in the Gentleman's section, French Open sensation Robin Soderling came back from a set down to register a win over Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. Fernando Verdasco, leading the charge of the Spanish contingent also won against British wild card James Ward. French dynamite Jo Wilfred Songa too came back from a set down to finally prevail over Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan. Philip Kohlschreiber, Janko Tipsarevic, Tommy Robredo, Mardy Fish, Igor Andreev were the notable winners.
The shock of the day in the men's half was the exit of American James Blake at the hands of Italy's Andreas Seppi in straight sets. Blake had just recently finished runner-up to Andy Murray at Queen's Club, andÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â a visibly miffed Blake later blamed the ATP for its crowded calendar, giving players little time to rest and recharge their batteries.
The ladies section, unlike the men's half has more than a handful contenders. The Williams sisters though, would like to continue with their dominance over Wimbledon and are in good shape to achieve the same. Serena, the younger of the two made an impressive start as she pummelled her opponent Neuza Silva into submission with her powerful ground strokes.
Maria Sharapova,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â like Serena a former champion here at SW-19,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â had a tough time against Viktoriya Kutuzova of Ukraine, yet managed to scrape through 7-5, 6-4. After being on the recovery path from a shoulder injury, the former world no.1 is slowly switching gears and making her way to top form. Against the Ukrainian girl, she showed remarkable character in coming out trumps in the first set after trailing at 1-4 at one stage. The secondÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â set was quite tight too; though, to Sharapova's credit, she played the big points well and prevailed over the 20-year old Kutuzova.
India's Sania Mirza too made her way past a stubborn opponent in Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld in three sets. Sania's slight alterations in her much maligned serve appeared to have paid off as she looked very comfortable on serveÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â early inÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â the match. She made more than a few unforced errors though in her bid to wrap up the match quickly. Groenfeld, who has been defeated twice by Sania in the past didn't capitulate and won the second set 6-2. Sania, to her creditÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â kept firing on all cylindersÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â and forced her way into a healthy 4-1 lead in the decider. She eventually won the match 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.
Fresh off her semifinal showing at the Aegon International in Eastbourne England last week, Aleksandra Wozniak was stunned in her opening round match, falling 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to Italy's Francesca Schiavone, ranked no. 43 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. The new world no. 21 found herself in a seesaw battle that lasted over two hours. After securing the opening set, Wozniak had her chances in both the second and third sets, but failed to put her opponent away.
Daniela Hantuchova, Elena Dementieva, Victoria Azarenka, Nadia Petrova andÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Shahar Peer were the other notable winners in the ladies section today.
Federer def Lu 7-5 6-3 6-2,
Djokovic def Benneteau 6-7 7-6 6-2 6-4,
Verdasco def Ward 6-1 6-3 6-4,
Soderling def Muller 6-7 7-5 6-1 6-2,
Tsonga def Golubev 6-3 5-7 7-6 7-6,
Seppi def Blake 7-5 6-4 7-6,
Almagro def Monaco 6-7 6-7 7-6 6-4 8-6,
Beck def Lopez 1-6 7-5 6-3 4-6 10-8
S Williams def Silva 6-1 7-5,
Sharapova def Kutuzova 7-5 6-4,
Dementieva def Kudryavtseva 6-4 6-1,
Schiavone def Wozniak 4-6 6-4 6-4,
Mirza def Groenfeld 6-2 2-6
File Photograph Copyright: Richard Thorpe
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