Despite a brief stop for rain, the opening day of The Championships progressed without much of hitch though you could say that ‘injuries’ were a prime consideration as some of the strong contenders arrived in SW19 carrying some sort of a problem.
I have felt OK the last few days and the adrenaline you feel by playing a match numbs any pain you may have Andy Murray
Both the British number ones were in that category and both came through their opening matches without much of a problem.
Andy Murray’s hip dominated most of the headlines in the lead up to Wimbledon, especially as he cancelled two exhibition matches and was seen practising at the Club where it was clearly evident that all was not well.
Opening the proceedings on Centre Court he made light work of Alexander Bulbic completing a comfortable straight sets defeat in just one hour and 44-minutes.
“I have felt OK the last few days and the adrenaline you feel by playing a match numbs any pain you may have,” the world number one said after demolishing his Kazhakstani opponent on his debut on grass. “Bublik is a bit of a character. He’s a bit different from other players, tries different shots and the crowd enjoyed the way he plays.”
What the crowd enjoyed more was seeing their favourite back on his home court moving without any obvious sign of hip hindrance though if you watched him closely, he did show a slight limp when walking between points and games.
Meanwhile out on Court No.1, Jo Konta was watched closely to see how her back, following that very dramatic fall she suffered in the semi-finals of Eastbourne which not only bruised her head, but her spine. For awhile, it looked like she might have to pull out of Wimbledon but she didn’t and made a very successful comeback to eliminate the player who had beaten her in Roland Garros last month, again in straight sets
She moved well and showed no sign of the spine injury and reported after her victory, that all was well. “I’m feeling well,” she said. “I’d hit on Sunday, that was kind of the first test to see how I was doing. I felt absolutely fine and it was no different today. I’m not feeling any pain.”
She now faces Donna Vekic who beat her in Nottingham final a few weeks ago and is relishing the prospect of vengeance though she wouldn’t admit it as such! “That’s another great opportunity for me to play against someone who the last time I played, played a very good match,” Konta, seded six, added. “It’s another opportunity for me to try and find a way to come out on top this time but most importantly, I’m looking forward to having another round here and competing the best that I can.”
Two big names who were certainly considered contenders for the men’s titles, have failed to clear their respective first hurdles.
First to go was the flamboyant Nick Kyrgios who shocked Rafa Nadal at the 2014 Championships who retired after losing the first two sets to Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France. He never looked comfortable as he ventured out on Court 3 and his body language didn’t inspire any confidence.
The fiery Aussie called for treatment to his hip which he damaged when he fell heavily during Queen’s and it was clear that he had not fully recovered from the heavy bruising, retiring minutes later with the score at 6-3 6-2 against him.
“I kind of knew I was in trouble. I have been feeling my hip ever since I fell over at Queen’s Club,” Kyrgios admitted. “Never got it right. I was doing everything I could to help it, but just not enough time.
“It’s not great. I played a couple of matches at Boodles (exhibition) the last couple of days to see where I was at and it’s definitely not 100 percent. I can serve well and still be successful but, at the same time, it’s not where I’d like my body to be…
“But, ultimately, it’s bone bruising. I’ve got a bruised hip – I’ve got a bone impingement. It’s not the greatest thing at the moment.”
Then later in the evening, Stan Wawrinka playing the last match on Center Court, was dumped out by Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who made the final in Eastbourne only to be taught a lesson in that title match by Novak Djokovic.
He must have learnt his lesson as he quickly put the fifth seed from Switzerland under pressure but then a knee injury surfaced which must have had an effect on the eventual 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-1 result.
For Wawrinka the result hasn’t improved his views on grass as a playing surface, as it was his second first round exit in as many weeks, and his sixth first-round loss at Wimbledon. “For sure it was a bad two grass court tournaments. That’s clear. I had some problem with my knee at Queen’s, so it was not the way I wanted to get ready for this tournament.”
During his second loss, he received plenty of icing on his knee but it didn’t help him. The problem is a long-standing one, the three time grand slam champion admitted. “It’s not something new but something I had in the past. End of last year and in Australia.
“But grass is not the best surface for my knee and I need to figure it out and come back on court without any pain.”
Also out is the big serving Croat Ivo Karlovic who is now the King of Aces having set a new record by adding another 44 to raise his career mark to 12,062 aces. However, he damaged his shoulder in the process and was the only player to drop his serve in a five setter lasting five minutes short of four and half hours as Britain’s Aljaz Bedene held on to collect a memorable scalp 6-7(5) 7-6(6)6-7(7) 7-6(7) 8-6.
On a positive front, Petra Kvitova’s return must rank amongst the best stories to emerge in the tennis world following that horrific attack on her last December.
She seems to have overcome any major problems following the four hour surgery to repair her playing hand and while she admitted that it wasn’t up to full strength a few weeks she managed to win the Birmingham title. Unfortunately she picked up an abdominal injury which kept her out of Eastbourne but that didn’t seem to hamper her when she dismissed Sweden’s Johanna Larsson 6-3 6-4.
Her smiles following her win were testimony to the relief she must feel at being able to play at the highest level, something she feared and her doctors had warned might not be possible.
“I think I’m still missing the matches. You can’t really train, you just need to play as many matches as you can,” Kvitova told BBC Sport. “I think I was a bit tight today, I was nervous before and that’s probably why I started a little bit badly on my serve and I need to improve for sure my serve and some ground strokes.
“I feel no pain [in my abdominals] which is good but of course I missed a few days of practising. I hope with the matches and with practice it will be better and better.”
Finally, someone who knows all about injuries and comebacks, Rafa Nadal who missed last year’s Championships because of a wrist injury. He showed all his physical prowess to secure his 850th tour-level wins against Australia’s John Millman, 6-1 6-3 6-2. The Spaniard is only the seventh player to record that number of wins.
Also returning to the fray is Victoria Azarenka playing for only the third time since giving birth to her son Leo and not surprisingly made a slow start but once into the swing of things, she showed why she was considered a threat to Serena Williams before she fell preganat.
Unseeded and a player no one wants to face this year, she eased past CiCi Bellis 3-6 6-2 6-1.
Commenting on her comeback, she said: “I just think that it’s not as scary as people think sometimes. It’s a conscious decision that you have to make to give yourself that break and be able to work hard and start really, physically, a little bit from zero. But I do believe that if you’re very passionate about what you do and what you love to do, that you can do that.”