LONDON, July 2, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Within the span of just a couple of minutes, a sense of normalcy returned to the women’s singles draw at the Wimbledon Championships on Tuesday afternoon. That’s because unlike Monday’s madness, in which No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka was ousted and 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff upset her idol, 39-year-old five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and 2018 champion Angelique Kerber each won their first-round matches, both in straight sets.
Barty, the reigning French Open champion who won a grass-court tuneup last month in Birmingham, needed just 76 minutes to beat 43rd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China, 6-4, 6-2, in the opening match on Court 1. It was an impressive start for the Australian, who garnered her 13th straight victory going back to the start of the French Open. Barty looked as comfortable hitting her variety of backhand slice and drop shots on the pristine grass as she did on clay at Roland Garros. With her first win of the fortnight secure, Barty moved a step closer to becoming the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong Cawley achieved the feat back in 1980.
“The first round is always very tough,” said Barty, who will face 57th-ranked Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in the next round. “It took time to get used to the conditions and the beautiful court with the new roof. It feels incredible (to be No. 1). It is a little bizarre, but this sacred turf we get to play on, you have to enjoy every minute of it.”
Looking ahead to playing Van Uytvanck, who took out No. 104 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, Barty said, “Alison has a big game. It will be important for me to return well and look after my own service games.”
Meanwhile, fifth seed Kerber, who beat Serena Williams in last year’s Wimbledon final, returned to the Centre Court scene of her 2018 triumph and put away fellow German Tatjana Maria, ranked 65th, 6-4, 6-3, in one hour and 21 minutes. The victory improved Kerber’s lifetime win-loss record at Wimbledon to 31-10 as she bids to come just the sixth female to successfully defend a Wimbledon title. Kerber has won more grass court matches than any other woman during the past four years.
The perfect start…
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) 2. Juli 2019
“Coming back, walking onto Centre Court is really special,” said Kerber, who last year became the first German woman to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graf in 1996. “A lot of emotions and memories coming back.
“It’s a completely different year. I have to start from zero, having to play every single round again. … For me, it’s continuing how I played the last weeks and last year here.”
The Kerber-Maria match was characterized by plenty of service breaks – 11 in all and seven won by Kerber – and plenty of points were decided at the net, in which Maria won 22 of 41 opportunities from short range.
However, Kerber hit 22 winners against 19 unforced errors while Maria mustered just 15 winners and hit 27 unforced errors. The World No. 5 Kerber outpointed Maria 66-52 to move into the second round against American lucky loser Lauren Davis, ranked 95th, who beat 66th-ranked Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-2.
After her win, Kerber, 31, said she tried to stay in the moment against Maria. “You never know what will happen against her. She was slicing off both sides and coming to the net. … I was just trying to find a way to win every single point.”
Brooch meets swoosh
With each Grand Slam, tennis fashionistas always take note about what Serena Williams is wearing. On Tuesday, when the 23-time Grand Slam champion took to Centre Court for her first-round match against 31-year-old qualifier Giulia Gatto-Monticone of Italy – won by the American 6-2, 7-5 – Williams was attired in a textured white tennis dress – featuring a mostly-bare midriff – with Nike’s signature swoosh crafted from Swarovski crystals.
According to British Vogue magazine, the “broosh” is comprised of 34 gemstones, which represents Williams’ age when she won her most recent Wimbledon in 2016. It is also “inspired by the jewelry collection of Williams generations gone by.”
Abby Swancutt, global design direct for NikeCourt, told British Vogue, “I wanted her to feel like it was something her grandmother could have worn, but of course give it a modern spin and make it just right for Serena.”
The 11th-seeded Williams won in one hour and 19 minutes and beat the No. 161 Gatto-Monticone, who was making her Centre Court debut, by controlling the net, hitting 26 winners, and taking advantage of four service breaks against the Italian. She closed out the match with a flourish by hitting a backhand volley winner that excited the Centre Court audience.
“It’s the best I’ve felt since February,” Williams told the BBC during a post-match interview. “She (Gatto-Monticone) never gave up and it’s good for me to play matches like this when I haven’t had a ton of matches this year. I’m feeling good that I can actually walk. I’m better now. It’s fine.”
Williams, 37, who won the women’s title in 2015 and 2016 and was a finalist last year, has now won 21 of her past 22 matches at Wimbledon. Next, she will face qualifier Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, who beat Kristyna Pliskova of Czech Republic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Mixed results for former champions
Wimbledon 2004 champion Maria Sharapova of Russia, whose ranking has plummeted to 80th due to injuries that have limited her play this year, retired with a left wrist injury against 88th-ranked Pauline Parmentier of France, down 4-6, 7-6 (4), 5-0, after two hours and 17 minutes on Court 2. She was treated for pain in her left wrist and lower left arm earlier in the match. It marked Sharapova’s second consecutive first-round exit at London SW 19.
Next door on Court 3, it was a disappointing result for 2017 champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain. The No. 26 seed bowed in the first round to qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, ranked No. 121, 6-4, 6-4, by committing 27 unforced errors and double-faulting on match point.
However, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (2011, 2014), who missed Roland Garros last month while nursing a left forearm tear, advanced over Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-4, 6-2. The Czech Republic native played solidly throughout the one-hour match and took advantage of five service breaks against the 56th-ranked Tunisian.
“It’s my favorite tournament,” said Kvitova afterward during an on-court interview, while admitting that her arm was not 100 percent. “I knew Ons played well at Eastbourne, so I’m really glad I was able to play well today. It’s great to be in the second round.”
Next, Kvitova will face 48th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France, who pulled out a 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2 win over 83rd-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia.
Around the All England Club
• No. 4 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands needed just 66 minutes to beat 98th-ranked Mandy Minella of Luxembourg, 6-3, 6-2, in a match moved to Centre Court. “It was a nice surprise being moved to Centre Court,” said Bertens, interviewed by the BBC after the match. “I stayed calm and played with good energy.”
• No. 9 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States advanced in 68 minutes over 91st-ranked Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-4, thanks to five service breaks and winning more than half of her receiving points.
• No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland defeated 46th-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 6-2, 6-3, on the strength of 25 winners and just five unforced errors.
• No. 15 seed Wang Qiang of China advanced over No. 106 Vera Lapko of Belarus, 6-2, 6-2.
• No. 18 seed Julia Goerges of Germany needed just 77 minutes to beat qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania, ranked No. 176, 7-5, 6-1.
• No. 19 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain, a 2017 semifinalist, beat No. 132 qualifier Ana Bogdan of Romania, 7-5, 6-2.
• No. 21 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium was first off court Tuesday as she defeated No. 100 Fiona Ferro of France, 6-2, 6-0 in just 48 minutes.
• No. 25 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States, who was a semifinalist at Roland Garros, advanced over 77th-ranked Sorana Cirstea of Romania, 6-3, 6-3.
• No. 30 seed Carla Suárez Navarro defeated No. 119 Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-2, 7-5.
• No. 32 seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine was upset by 54th-ranked Barbora Strycova of Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2.
Other first-round winners included: Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic, Magda Linette of Poland, Wang Yafan of China, Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, Laura Siegmund of Germany, Harriet Dart of Great Britain, Monica Niculescu of Romania, Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, qualifier Varvara Flink of Russia, Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, and Taylor Townsend of the United States.
What they’re saying
Cori “Coco” Gauff, 15, on the significance of her 6-4, 6-4 first-round win over her idol, 39-year-old five-time Wimbledon singles champion Venus Williams on Monday: “I’m super shocked. But I’m just super blessed that Wimbledon decided to give me the wild card. I mean, I never expected this to happen. … Obviously, I literally got my dream draw, so I’m just super happy I was able to pull it out today. She played amazing, was just super nice. She’s always been nice the couple times I met her.
“I wasn’t surprised that I won. I mean, I was just overwhelmed at the end. Never played on a court that big, the crowd was really wild. I was just surprised that people were cheering me on.”
What they’re tweeting
• Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing): “Congratulations to the talented @CocoGauff, who made history today as the youngest player since 1991 to win in the first round of women’s singles. Two generations of greatness on the court, and a tremendous win over her idol, @Venuseswilliams. #Wimbledon”
• Christopher Clarey, New York Times tennis columnist: “We should take time to marvel at the winner and loser in the Coco Gauff-Venus Williams #Wimbledon match. Remarkable for Gauff to be so good and so poised at age 15. Remarkable for Venus to still be in the arena at age 39.”
What they’re writing
George Bellshaw, Metro.co.uk tennis writer, on Coco Gauff: “Lindsay Davenport is convinced that Cori Gauff will be a ‘star’ and a ‘multiple Grand Slam champion’ but warned that a win of that magnitude so early in her young career could prove to be tough to handle. … Davenport described the 6-4, 6-4 win as a ‘passing of the torch’ but exclusively told Metro.co.uk that people shouldn’t get ahead of themselves with regards to the teenager’s process. … Asked if she could dominated the women’s game, Davenport replied: ‘Yeah, but you’ve got to give her a few years.’”
As the second round commences, No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova leads off Centre Court play on Wednesday against 2016 Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig of Puerto Rico at 1 p.m. Cori “Coco” Gauff will be in action in the fourth match from 11 a.m. on Court 2 against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia. Also in action will be No. 7 seed Simona Halep against fellow Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu on Court 2 and No. 8 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine against Margarita Gasparyan of Russia on Court 3.