LONDON — The first day of action at Wimbledon saw Roger Federer take the court in unusual attire, Serena Williams score a striaght-set victory, Sloane Stephens bow out in the first round for the third time in the last five majors and, of course, much more. Here are five quick thoughts:
• A day after LeBron James announced his decamping to Los Angeles, we were served a tennis equivalent. In keeping with the tradition of the defending champions christening Centre Court, Roger Federer strode out for his first match wearing...Uniqlo attire, having signed a lucrative (supermax) free-agent contract.
A Nike athlete for virtually his entire career until today, Federer switched his allegiance as part of deal that, sources tell us, nets out at $30 million per annum over 10 years. Story to follow: Uniqlo doesn't currently make footwear (so it was that Federer wore Nike shoes with his new kit today). Having made such a significant financial investment, might Uniqlo develop a performance shoe for Federer? As for the actual tennis—oh, right; that thing—Federer ranged between good and great and had no problem subduing Dusan Lajovic of Serbia.
• The female GOAT was in action as well today, with Serena Williams playing her first match since a pectoral injury forced her out of the French Open. Serena cut a familiar figure—as is often the case, she didn’t play her best, but did what was necessary, taking down Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands in straight sets. She is now 67-1 in first round matches at Slams. (Virginie Razzano, 2012 French Open is your trivia question answer.) Next up for SW: world No. 135 Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria.
• Say this about Sloane Stephens: She is reliably inconsistent. Her last five Slam results: A first-round loss (Wimbledon 2017); a title (2017 U.S. Open); a first-round loss (2018 Australian Open); a run to the final (French Open 2018); a first-round loss Monday at Wimbledon. The draw gods did Stephens no favors, pitting her against Donna Vekic of Croatia, a formidable grass court player, who hits a heavy, flat ball. But Stephens did herself no favors either, playing zero tuneups and only arriving in Wimbledon late last week. Stephens has little use for convention. Sometimes this is to her benefit; other times to her detriment. This time it was the latter.
• An hour of so after Vekic won her match, her boyfriend took the court to play No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov. It’s been a rough 12 months for Stanislas Wawrinka as he’s been hobbled by a knee injury and, consequently, has dropped to world No. 224. But today he looked like the three-time Grand Slam champion he is, moving surprisingly well, zinging his trusty backhand and taking out the struggling Bulgarian in four sets. This results won’t get much publicity in the face of his countryman’s switch to Uniqlo (Wawrinka's career in a nutshell) but this was a classy win. And conversely, yet another disappointment for Dimitrov.
• There’s no clock in tennis, which is one of the sport’s great virtues. But accrued time can be a factor as events progress. When, say, Madison Keys wins a potentially tricky match over Alja Tomljanovich in barely an hour, it’s a doubly good day at the office. Or when Milos Raonic—a finalist in 2016 who’s been bitten by the injury bug—clocks in at 91 minutes, he must be thrilled.
Likewise, kudos to 38-year-old Venus Williams for shaking off a dodgy first set and beating Johanna Larsson of Sweden. But she surely wishes she had done so more efficiently than 128 minutes. Just as No. 7 seed Karolina Pliskova wishes that she labored for fewer than 126 minutes, as she did in beating British wild card Harriet Dart in three sets.
Cafe Wertheim lost a star putting the seed report on podcast only. And where is the link/bug/tag line on how to send items to the mailbag?
Have a great fortnight.
• Okay, the message was received. Audio sessions are no substitute for seed reports. (Even if we didn't realize that Elena Vesnina had pulled out of doubles. Even if we pick against Muguruza and either irrationally exuberant about Djokovic or too harsh for predicting he loses to Nadal.)
Herewith, our full written 2018 Wimbledon seed reports.