the legend

joyful rogger fedder

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dry day means roof has no chance to shine

Day One of the 123rd Wimbledon Championships – and it was a disaster. Well, it was if you had just spent a fortune on a new roof for the Centre Court. So, what sort of weather did we have on the dawn of the brave new age of life with a roof? Sunshine, a few clouds and hours and hours of uninterrupted play. Not a drop of rain to be seen. Rats! The roof will have to wait for another day.

Other than that, Day One could not have been better. The brand-spanking new No.2 Court was opened by the Duke of Kent and, for the first set and a half of its working life, was the centre of the universe for British tennis (the locals get very excited at this time of year when one of their own is playing). Laura Robson, last year’s junior champion and still only 15, took a set from Daniela Hantuchova before losing in three sets.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams vied with each other for the fashion statement award of the week. Federer turned up in a sharp new jacket to begin his bid for a sixth Wimbledon title and promptly whistled past Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei. Williams turned up in what looked like a rather expensive white raincoat and then brushed Neuza Silva aside 6-1, 7-5.

All in all, it was a day for everyone to get their bearings. No one is in their peak form at this stage of the competition and all those with ambitions of reaching the second week were dusting off their grass court tactics and getting used to the lush green stuff beneath their feet.

Maria Sharapova’s previously gammy shoulder came through its first test of the fortnight as she beat Viktoriya Kutuzova. This is only her fourth tournament back after a nine-month layoff following rotator cuff surgery and she is still easing her way back to her best. Her first round was not easy, it was not particularly pretty but she survived and, better still for her, her shoulder is apparently feeling fine.

Novak Djokovic, too, took his time to get the feel of the grass as he dropped the first set against Julien Benneteau but came through in four sets on Centre Court.

The only surprise casualty of the day was James Blake, the 17th seed. Just eight days ago, Blake had been in the final of the Queen’s Club event and had looked right at home on a grass court. But a combination of a stomach upset, a sore ankle and just honest-to-goodness exhaustion was enough to see him lose to Andreas Seppi in straight sets.

So as Day One drew to a close, the fit and the famous had lived up to their billing while the rain had stayed away. And somewhere in the bowels of the All England Club a man – or possibly woman – stands like a coiled spring over a button marked “Centre Court – roof for the closing of”. Judging by the weather forecast – days of sunshine – he or she could be there for some time.

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