Today the 2015 edition of the Wimbledon Championships commenced at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London. This marks the 129th year of the championships, and the 48th in the Open Era of tennis. The tournament will run, as usual, over the next fourteen days; with a total prize fund of £26.5 million, of which £1.88 million is on offer to the eventual winners of each of the men’s and the women’s draws.
World number 1 and defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic got the tennis underway on Centre Court, facing Philipp Kohlschreiber: a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2012, and a relatively tough test for Djokovic’s opening match given that he is currently ranked number 33, and therefore only just missed out on being seeded. Kohlschreiber is a player who readily goes for his shots, and he can therefore prove a nuisance to the top players on tour while lacking the weapons and the consistency to really challenge. But after a back-and-forth first set, and despite Kohlschreiber twice breaking Djokovic’s serve, the champion came through with a fairly straightforward victory, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Maria Sharapova, who won her sole Wimbledon title way back in 2004, dispatched British wildcard Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-2. Stan Wawrinka – who went out in the early stages of the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, on grass in the build-up to Wimbledon; but who should still be full of confidence after triumphing at the French Open at the beginning of June – opened his account with a 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) defeat of Joao Sousa. And with the three scheduled Centre Court matches all done, there was time for a resurgent Sloane Stephens to put out 27th seed Barbora Strycova, 6-4, 6-2.
On No. 1 Court Serena Williams – looking for her 21st Grand Slam singles title in total, and the current holder of every women’s Grand Slam besides Wimbledon after her success at the French Open – defeated twenty-year-old Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan 6-4, 6-1, although the youngster frustrated her with an early break in the first set. 5th seed Kei Nishikori struggled past Italy’s Simone Bolelli in five sets, persevering 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. And the fitful Grigor Dimitrov, who languished at the French Open and at Queen’s, looked good again on the grass at Wimbledon – where he reached the semi-finals last year – dominating Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-0, 6-4.
Elsewhere another men’s semi-finalist in 2014, Milos Raonic, overcame a third-set blip to defeat Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4). French Open finalist Lucie Safarova took a deep breath and recovered to beat Alison Riske 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Reigning US Open Champion Marin Cilic eased to a win over Hiroki Moriya, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). Ana Ivanovic excelled to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over qualifer Xu Yifan. Victoria Azarenka hurried past Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-1. And Venus Williams, still a real threat on the grass, routed her compatriot Madison Brengle 6-0, 6-0.
One of the most engaging subjects of the day was the twenty-year-old Australian, and 26th seed, Nick Kyrgios. On his way to a simple 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) success against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, in the third set Kyrgios took issue with umpire Mohamed Lahyani. When a corrected call cost him a point, Kyrgios protested that the point should instead have been replayed, arguing that the lineswoman’s shout had come before he played his shot. Lahyani disagreed, and Kyrgios briefly threatened to stop playing, until the umpire outlined his authority over the matter. But soon afterwards Kyrgios uttered the phrase ‘dirty scum’ – an epithet which he claims he was directing at his own performance. The Australian has said he will happily accept whatever fine may come his way.
Twenty-one-year-old Brit Liam Broady, another wildcard and making his Wimbledon singles debut, came back from two sets down to defeat Marinko Matosevic 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Broady is presently ranked 182 in the world, with Matosevic ranked 138. Broady’s older sister Naomi, however, lost her opening-round match in straight sets to Colombia’s Mariana Duque Marino.
Going longer still were Alexander Zverev and Teymuraz Gabashvili, who played for 3 hours 46 minutes, with Zverev getting the better of his opponent 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 3-6, 9-7; Fernando Verdasco and Martin Klizan, who played for 3 hours 57 minutes, with Verdasco coming through 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 13-11; and Jarkko Nieminen and Lleyton Hewitt, who wrapped up on exactly the 4 hour mark, the Finn taking the match 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, 11-9. Hewitt, a wildcard entry to this year’s tournament, has made gruelling five-setters a speciality across recent Wimbledons, supported by his ardent followers, the Fanatics. He has said that this will prove his last time competing at the venue, where he won in 2002; and at the end of the match Nieminen and the crowd gave him a lengthy ovation.
Tomorrow will see defending women’s champion Petra Kvitova open on Centre Court. Kvitova is the only player on the women’s tour outside of the Williams sisters to have triumphed more than once at Wimbledon. She will be followed by Roger Federer, with the championships possibly his best bet as he looks to add another Grand Slam to a most illustrious career; and then by Andy Murray. Meanwhile Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep, and Tomas Berdych will star on No. 1 Court.