LONDON: Roger Federer’s bid for a record 15th Grand Slam title got underway in familiar fashion as the five-times champion settled into Wimbledon’s new-look centre court with a straight sets demolition of Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun.
Federer, a strong favourite in the absence of injured champion Rafael Nadal, recovered from going a break down early in the first set to win 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 and set up a second round meeting with Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who had a similarly straightforward win over Argentina’s Agustin Calleri. Fine, dry conditions ensured there was no need of the new retractable roof that has been installed above Wimbledon’s most famous court as part of an £80 million upgrade.
Federer also went largely untested once he had recovered from netting a straightforward backhand to gift his opponent a break in the fifth game of the match. The Swiss broke back immediately and, after clinching the first set with a 12th-game break, improved steadily as the match wore on.
James Blake, who had arrived here with high hopes after finishing as runner-up to Andy Murray at Queen’s, became the first major casualty when he suffered a surprise straight sets defeat at the hands of Andreas Seppi. The Italian beat the 17th seed 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) to advance to the second round. Also, Sweden’s Robin Soderling rallied for a 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 win over Luxemburg’s Gilles Muller.
Maria Sharapova was the first of the leading women to take to the All England club’s lawns and the 2004 champion quickly found herself in trouble, trailing 1-4 and 3-5 in the first set to Ukrainian qualifier Viktoriya Kutuzova. The Russian recovered however to win 7-5, 6-4 and set up a second round meeting with Argentina’s Gisela Dulko. American Serena Willimas saw off Portugal’s Neuza Silva 6-1, 7-5.
There was disappointment for the home supporters when 15-year-old Laura Robson, last year’s junior champion, lost in three sets to
former world No 5 Daniela Hantuchova. Robson, born in Melbourne to English parents, had looked set
to create a significant upset after claiming the first set and going a break up in the second. But Hantuchova, a quarter-finalist here in 2002, made her experience tell
as the teenager’s left-handed
serve began to faulter, finally winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Indian star Sania Mirza also made it into the second round, courtesy of a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win over big-hitting German Anna-Lena Groenefeld, as did China’s Zheng Jie, a surprise semi-finalist here last year. Zheng battled to a 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/4) first round victory over Kristina Barrois and will now face Hantuchova for a third round slot.