LONDON, July 1, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
Social media had repeated references about how the opening day at Wimbledon felt similar to Christmas. However, as the day actually panned out in earnest, some of the players looked like they had been put on Santa’s naught list. Especially, the two seeded heavyweights who crashed out within minutes of each other. But first things first.
Or rather, to begin with the World No. 1 and defending champion, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic first. The four-time champion got past German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and three minutes. It reads like a straightforward result and it was, except for the two service breaks Djokovic lost to begin the first two sets. As seen in the score-line, the second set was much closer than the first and third. It could have gone Kohlschreiber’s way had the German succeeded in outsmarting the 32-year-old after having secured an early break to go up 2-0.
Djokovic opened the match with a double fault and at its end, both opponents had three doubles faults each to their stats’ total. Djokovic went on to finish the match with 102 points to Kohlschreiber’s 74, which included 37 winners.
Having started off with a win under the eye of Croatian and former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic spoke about the initial hiccup he had suffered while serving in the match’s first game. He said, “The break in the first game wasn’t the start that I was looking for. But I think I came with the right intensity. I answered back really well. Then from that moment onwards, I played pretty good match, I thought. It was a good quality. I held my serve well. I’m overall satisfied.”
Next up for Djokovic is American Denis Kudla who defeated Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
Other Seeds Sail Through
Earlier, fourth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa defeated France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert in their opening-round clash. Anderson won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Among the other seeded players, the 21st seed Felix Auger-Aliassime claimed his first-ever win at a Major. Auger-Aliassime won the Canadian derby against Vasek Pospisil, making a comeback after losing the first set 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. Lastly, the 22nd-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka also moved into the second round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Belgian qualifier Ruben Bemelmans.
Top-10 Seeds’ Exodus
Unlike the women’s draw that was reeling under the dual ousters of 10th seed Aryna Sabalenka and the World No. 2 Naomi Osaka, it looked like the men’s draw would be impervious to upsets. However, Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely and Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano ended this line of thought strongly.
The World No. 124 defeated sixth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 on No. 1 Court in two hours and 31 minutes. Vesely made good of the first two match points that came his way on Zverev’s serve in the 12th game of the fourth set to move ahead in the draw. However, in the fifth game of the set, Zverev had two break points to go up a break but could not convert either. In total for the match, Zverev converted only one of the seven break points that came his way while saving merely three of the eight break points he faced.
The 23-year-old who has been struggling all throughout this season attributed lack of confidence for his loss, while talking to reporters.
“It was kind of a typical Grand Slam match for me. I started off well, then one or two things don’t go my way, and everything kind of a little bit falls apart. Yeah, I’m not very high on confidence right now,” he said. “When I get to the important moments, I had, what, five, six breakpoints in the fourth set alone, can’t take any of those. I had a Love-40, a 15-40. I’m down one breakpoint myself and he takes it immediately, where I miss an easy volley. So, yeah. I didn’t lose this match on tennis. It’s just, yeah, my confidence is below zero right now.”
Joining Zverev in the list of upsets was fellow NextGen player, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded seventh in the draw. Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano upset the 20-year-old 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3 in three hours and 23 minutes.
Tsitsipas never once looked comfortable in the match and struggled to score points off Fabbiano’s serve. In hindsight, the first set was quite foretelling of the way the match would shape up given how quickly the World No. 6 had slid down a break. Although he did well to recover it back, a second break of serve further along the set helped the World No. 89 secure the set and take a lead in the match. Tsitsipas could convert only two of the 10 break point opportunities that came his way in the match. His second and final break of serve came in the second set as he levelled the match at one set apiece.
2019’s two-time titlist’s first test came in the fourth set as he dragged it to a tie-break after serving to stay in it twice. The Athens native’s quintessential audacious play-making also helped him stave off two match points and win the tie break 10-8 to push the match into the decider. Momentary lapse in concentration costing him with a break in the seventh game of the set, Tsitsipas’ struggles against Fabbiano’s serve haunted him for one last time as his inability to save the third match point cost him the match.