Wimbledon Day 1 – What to watch

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WIMBLEDON – It’s finally under way.

And with no first-round byes and some dangerous floaters, there is no breathing room at all before the intriguing matches start coming at us.

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Big courts hopping

Some were surprised Rafael Nadal got the No. 1 Court assignment while Stan Wawrinka – who has never won Wimbledon and is seeded lower at No. 5, got Centre Court.

It’s worth remembering that No. 1 also is a ticketed court. And, as at the French Open with Court Suzanne Lenglen, the tournament also wants to give full value to those patrons. 

As is custom, defending champion Andy Murray will open  Centre Court promptly at 1 p.m. And he’ll take on an intriguing customer in lucky loser Alexander Bublik.

There’s no more dangerous player on grass than an unpredictable, rather unknown player. So while Murray theoretically knows what to expect, he can’t truly know until they begin to play. That’s where the best-of-five format is an advantage to the established player.

Whether the loosey-goosey Bublik suffers a case of Wimbledon nerves, or seizes the moment, is part of the intrigue. Making your Wimbledon career debut on the Centre Court against the British defending champion is quite a way to kick it off.

Kvitova back in her happy place

Two-time champion Petra Kvitova, the No. 11 seed, also gets Centre Court as she triumphantly returns from the horrific stabbing incident last December. There surely were times she thought she would never be here on this day. 

On No. 1 court, British female hope Johanna Konta takes on a familiar foe in Hsieh Su-Wei. 

Sometimes the draw gods are cruel. And in this case, Konta’s opponent was the one who came back from a 1-6 first set to defeat her in the first round at the French Open just a few weeks ago.

Different tournament, different surface. But Hsieh (who has aWimbledon doubles title) has a whimsical game that is just as tricky on grass as it is on hard courts when it’s on.

 

No. 10 seed Venus Williams once seem destined to dominate at Wimbledon her entire career but in fact has not won here since 2008. She’s dealing with a devastating personal issue, as she was involved in a car accident resulting in a fatality a few weeks ago. And she’s without her sister (with whom she won the doubles just a year ago). But it’s hard to see her losing to Elise Mertens of Belgium.

Three men’s seeds to watch

[20] Nick Kyrgios vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert (1st, Court 3)

Kyrgios is an unknown quantity, particularly health-wise. And he’s facing an accomplished grass-courter in Herbert, whose doubles skills help him on this surface.

[31] Fernando Verdasco vs. Kevin Anderson (2nd, Court 18)

Anderson has been seeded before here, but injury has dropped his ranking. With his huge serve, on grass he’s a threat to anyone. And this is a tough first-round matchup for both.

[28] Fabio Fognini vs. [PR] Dmitry Tursunov (3rd, Court 17)

The former top-20 player Tursunov has barely played for a year, using his protected ranking to enter tournaments only to withdraw. Currently ranked No. 715, at age 35, this is very likely his final Wimbledon. You have to think he’ll lay it all out there against new father Fabio.

Three women’s seeds to watch

[4] Elina Svitolina vs. Ashleigh Barty (2nd, Court 3)

Svitolina is up against a grass-loving Aussie who has shown great form during the preparatory season, and who has reached a Wimbledon final in doubles. Just 21, back from a retirement sabbatical, Barty could well pull off the upset.

[25] Carla Suárez Navarro vs. Eugenie Bouchard

A year ago, Bouchard was beating British hope Konta on Centre Court, in an impressive display of timely tennis that belied her poor form coming in. The match is a TBA, which means it will get on a show court late in the day. The specific court will be determined by the length of the scheduled matches. Bouchard has been tough on Suárez Navarro even on the Spaniard’s favourite surface, clay. And they have practiced together often. 

[27] Ana Konjuh vs. [WC] Sabine Lisicki (4th, Court 14)

The German, who lost the 2013 Wimbledon final to Marion Bartoli, returned to action for the first time this season at the grass event in Mallorca. And she did surprisingly well. In this big-hitting battle, the younger Konjuh might be at an experience disadvantage.

Unseeded must-sees

[PR] Victoria Azarenka vs. Cici Bellis (TBA)

The return of Victoria Azarenka to Wimbledon after missing it a year ago is one of the highly-anticipated moments of this Wimbledon.

With baby Leo in tow and a new Yonex racquet, she gets 18-year-old American CiCi Bellis in the first round. That’s not easy. On the plus side, the two have (coincidentally) practiced several times on the grass since Azarenka’s return, so she won’t be faced with some unknown kid who will take it to her.

[WC] Tommy Haas vs. [Q] Ruben Bemelmans (3rd, Court 16)

The 39-year-old Haas gets the lefty Belgian qualifier first up. He can’t ask for much better than that as he undertakes his final Wimbledon campaign

Dustin Brown vs. Joao Sousa (1st, Court 14)

The Dredded One is always a a treat to watch on the Wimbledon lawns. And given he’s on small Court 14, you’ll have to plan it well to get a seat.

Camila Giorgi vs. Alizé Cornet (1st, Court 8)

Watch for Giorgi’s father Sergio on the side of the court if Cornet takes a lead in this one. It’s WTA drama of the best kind as these two quick players battle the grass – and themselves

[WC] Denis Shapovalov vs. [PR] Jerzy Janowicz (1st, Court 7)

The two played at a Challenger in Leon, Mexico last winter – outdoors, at altitude, on a hard court. So they’re familiar with each other (Janowicz won in a third-set tiebreak).

Shapovalov earned the Wimbledon wild card with the combination of his junior title a year ago, and his current ranking in the top 200. He defeated Kyle Edmund in the first round of Queen’s Club two weeks ago and is definitely one to watch. But the former top-15 player is a tough first round, even if he’s unseeded.

The Weather

The Wimbledon forecast is an exercise in brilliant creative writing every day. So we’ll bring it to you each morning.

“A largely dry morning with some brightness and even sunshine at times. Cloud amounts increasing through the morning with the slight (20%) risk of some showers for the start of play until mid-afternoon, around 1600.

Some warm sunshine developing for the end of the afternoon and through the evening where it will feel rather humid.

The light south-west winds will freshen slightly. Temperatures reaching a maximum of 24 Celsius, 75F.”

People watching

The Duchess of Cambridge (a.k.a Kate) will be on hand to open proceedings and see defending champion Murray off in his quest to repeat.

And, of course, HRH the Duke of Kent and HRH Prince Michael of Kent will be on hand.

Andy Murray’s father Williams gets the call in the Royal Box.

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