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22 Jun 2009 16:18
Roger Federer’s bid for a record 15th Grand Slam title got under way in familiar fashion as the five-time 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-pound 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.
World number one Nadal, who beat Federer in a classic final last year, has opted not to defend his after failing to fully recover from knee tendinitis in time.
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 in the men’s draw 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 and leave the American scratching his head over his failure to make an impact here.
“After Queen’s I really thought I a great chance to do very well,” he admitted. “It’s been my worst slam and I just don’t understand why.”
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, one of the few women who can compete with her in the glamour stakes.
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 number five 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.
There was a nod to the grim economic context with organisers announcing a freeze on the price of the strawberries and cream at last year’s levels: although a punnet of “no less than ten” at £2,25 the tournament’s favourite snack was still not everyone’s idea of a credit crunch bargain.—AFP
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