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Djokovic, Serena off to winning starts

sharapovaLONDON: Defending champion Novak Djokovic and five-time women’s winner Serena Williams reached the Wimbledon second round yesterday as organisers boosted security and weathermen ramped up warnings of a crushing heatwave. Top seed Djokovic enjoyed a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber with crucial breaks in the ninth game of each set and goes on to face either 2004 champion Lleyton Hewitt or Jarkko Nieminen for a place in the last 32. “This is the cradle of our sport,” said Djokovic, playing his first match since his defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the final of the French Open three weeks ago ended his hopes of completing a career Grand Slam. “There is no bigger tournament in our sport than Wimbledon. It’s always a special feeling to come out here as defending champion. There’s always a few butterflies.” Fourth seed Maria Sharapova reached the Wimbledon second round yesterday with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Britain’s Johanna Konta.

Sharapova, the 2004 champion, will face either Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands or China’s Wang Qiang for a place in the last 32. Japan’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori overcame an injury scare to reach the Wimbledon second round yesterday with a gruelling 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6- 2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Italy’s Simone Bolelli. Nishikori, who needed his left leg strapped in the final set, will face Santiago Giraldo of Colombia for a place in the last 32. Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams steamed through her first round match by crushing US compatriot Madison Brengle 6-0, 6-0 in just 42 minutes. Williams hit 29 winners to just two from Brengle, the world number 36, and won the match with her sixth ace to complete the socalled “double bagel” of winning in two sets without losing a game. Lleyton Hewitt’s Wimbledon farewell ended in an agonising defeat as Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen out-lasted the 2002 champion 3-6, 6- 3, 4-6, 6-0, 11-9 in a thrilling first round clash.

Hewitt is embarking on a prolonged goodbye tour before retiring after next year’s Australian Open and he was hoping for one last hurrah on his 17th and final visit to the All England Club. Top seed Williams, bidding to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to wrap up all four majors in one season, endured a nervy start, dropping serve and being warned for swearing, before completing a 6-4, 6-1 win over Margarita Gasparyan, the world number 113 from Russia who has never won a tour match in four years as a professional. “It feels good so far. Just one match but it feels good just to be back here at Wimbledon. I’ve done so well here in the past so I’ll always have so many good memories here,” said the 33-year-old American after her 73rd Wimbledon match win gave her a second round clash against Hungary’s Timea Babos. In other early action yesterday, Spanish ninth seed Carla Suarez Navarro went down 6-2, 6-0 to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in just 52 minutes while Italian 24th seed Flavia Pennetta lost 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas.

Two-time semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka, seeded 23, saw off Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-1 and seventh seed Ana Ivanovic breezed past China’s Fan Xu-yi 6-1, 6-1. In the men’s first round, Australia’s 26th seed Nick Kyrgios, who knocked out Rafael Nadal last year, eased past Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (8/6). US Open champion Marin Cilic, the ninth seeded Croatian and a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last year, got past Japanese qualifier Hiroki Moriya 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4). On the first day of the 2015 championships, security was stepped up in the aftermath of the weekend jihadist killings of 38 tourists in Tunisia, most of whom were British. Spectators were subjected to the usual bag checks at the entrances to the All England Club in southwest London, where police officers were visible around the perimeter and inside the grounds.

Britain’s national terror threat level is currently at “severe”, meaning an attack is considered highly likely. Police said that extra officers would be on duty patrolling the area, while road closures and a “highly mobile reserve that can respond to emerging incidents” were also in place. As well as security, fans and players were also bracing themselves for a rare British heatwave. Today and tomorrow, temperature are expected to be in the low to mid-30s.

One British newspaper even breathlessly predicted that Wednesday would sweat in 36 degrees, the highest ever recorded at the tournament. Seven-time champion Roger Federer, two-time winner Rafael Nadal and 2013 champion Andy Murray all start their bids today. —AFP

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This article was published on 29/06/2015