Thoughts from the opening day of matches at Wimbledon 2017.
LONDON – Thoughts from Day 1 at Wimbledon on Monday, July 3—the latest start here since 1896.
In keeping with tradition, the defending men’s champ christened Centre Court at 1:00 p.m. on the opening day of the tournament. And while Andy Murray was (is?) nursing a hip injury—sufficiently serious that he withdrew from an exhibition last week—he looked no worse the wear today. Playing the same kind of measured, cerebral grass court tennis that he brought to bear last year, Murray won his eighth-straight match here. Kicking off his defense with an easy win off of a lucky loser—and a wild, erratic, fun-to-watch, Eminem-tattooed brawler of a player, Alexander Bublik—Murray will now enjoy a day off.
If Murray played through physical issues, another former champion played through emotional issues. Last week came the report that Venus Williams was cited at fault in an auto accident last month. She will face a civil suit after a 78-year-old involved in the collision passed away. (Whether she caused the accident—a critical distinction glossed over in too many headlines—is a matter for jury.) Lacking her usual mirth, Venus got past Elise Mertens in straight sets on Monday. Quite understandably, she had a hard time of it in the press conference when she was asked about the accident.
Venus is, of course, a sensitive soul. We’ll see whether she can compartmentalize this unfortunate distraction as, at age 37, she tries to win a sixth Wimbledon title.
More thoughts from the opening day at The All England Club:
Rafael Nadal has won the Wimbledon title twice (2008 and 2010) and has been to the finals five times. It’s also been years since he played beyond the first week.
On Monday, he looked like an old grass court pro, smoking Australia’s John Millman in straight sets. Nadal’s pathological modesty to the contrary, you can practically see the confidence glistening off his body. Nadal unfurled some silly angles, maneuvered slickly and pushed his 2017 Grand Slam record to 14-1.
As the kids say: “That escalated quickly.”
In December, Petra Kvitova injured in a home invasion and her career was in jeopardy. An assailant—still at large—stabbed Kvitova on the left hand (her dominant one) as she thwarted further attack. Kvitova made an emotional return at the French Open, but it was squarely a feel-good story. She lost in the second round to qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands. But after Kvitova won the Birmingham title last month, this morphed quickly into a tennis story.
Kvitova, a two-time champion, with a game ideally suited for grass, came in as a short-list contender and played ably in her opening match, making her way past Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-4.
The current issue of the New Yorker features Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a headband. In what is either brutal timing or ideal timing, Kyrgios was eliminated from the tournament before lunch.
Clearly compromised with a hip injury, Kyrgios limped through two sets against France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert—a classically stylish, stylishly classic player, by the way—before calling it a day. Kyrgios is only 22, still a pup in the new tennis dog years. But his Grand Slam results so far this year have been bitterly disappointing. Can he salvage his year in New York?
Days like Monday are almost tennis overload, so many matches that results get lost in the folds. Five that caught our eye:
1. Kevin Anderson cracked the top 10 in 2015 and struggled with injuries ever since. He took a major step in his first match at Wimbledon, beating Fernando Verdasco. Inasmuch as Anderson qualifies, here’s a serious dark horse.
2. The good news for Donald Young: he won his 18th match of the year—tying last year’s total—when Denis Istomin retired. The less good news: Young now gets Rafael Nadal in the second round.
3. Madison Keys left the French Open in tears, her left wrist injury still troubling her. She returned to the Mayo Clinic for another round of surgery. Playing pain-free tennis, Keys, the 17th seed, looked terrific in her first match here, beating Nao Hibino in straight sets.
4. Elina Svitolina may have been the fourth seed, but she came into Wimbledon with a losing record for her career here. To her credit, she avoided the upset bug today beating Ash Barty 7-5, 7-6.
5. Mirjana Lucic Baroni was beating Carina Witthoeft 6-3, 5-7, 5-0 and held match point to win the final set in a bagel. She lost the point, lost the game and lost the set 8-6. Still another reminder: cruel sport, this tennis….