Sports, Tennis

Djokovic, Swiatek begin title quests with easy wins

By Reuters
Published : 04 Jul 2023 07:40 PM | Updated : 04 Jul 2023 07:40 PM
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Defending men's champion Novak Djokovic and women's top seed Iga Swiatek started their Wimbledon campaigns in ominous fashion on Monday as rain temporarily halted play on the outside courts but expected climate protests failed to materialise.

Djokovic, 36, has only lost twice at Wimbledon in a decade and began the Centre Court programme with a 6-3 6-3 7-6(4) win over Argentine Pedro Cachin after a 70-minute delay despite the roof being closed as ground staff laboured to dry the turf. For all latest news, follow The Daily Star's Google News channel.

The Serbian jokingly wiped the grass with a towel during a frustrating break in play before ground staff deployed leaf blowers to get the job done and allow Djokovic to get his quest for an eighth Wimbledon title off to flying start. French Open champion Swiatek put down a marker on her least favourite surface as she powered past China's Zhu Lin 6-1 6-3, the contest finishing under the Court One roof due to rain.

World number one Swiatek, who last month claimed her third Roland Garros crown in four years and is eyeing a fifth Grand Slam title, meets Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo next. There were mixed fortunes for two highly-rated Americans on day one. Fourth seed Jessica Pegula advanced with a blustery 6-2 6-7(8) 6-3 win over fellow American Lauren Davis.

But 19-year-old seventh seed Coco Gauff's hopes were shattered as she lost 6-4 4-6 6-2 to compatriot Sofia Kenin, the former Australian Open champion who came through qualifying.

"This means a lot, I had to go through qualies," Kenin said. "I battled out there, and I took this match as any other match. I know Coco has had a great season, I'm super proud of myself."

Earlier, the All England Club gates swung open for the start of the grasscourt major with some notable absentees but one very familiar face in Djokovic fixing his eyes on more records. Wimbledon's favourite son Roger Federer, now retired, the injured Rafa Nadal and Serena Williams, also retired, are hard acts to follow and fans will lament their absence.

Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios, who pushed Djokovic hard in last year's men's final and whose spiky presence inevitably spices the fortnight, is also missing having pulled out with a wrist injury on the eve of the slam.

But Wimbledon remains rich in plots, not least Djokovic's quest to match Margaret Court's record 24 Grand Slams, equal Federer's eight Wimbledon crowns and move alongside the Swiss and Bjorn Borg's record of five successive titles. The Serbian began in serene fashion, although he was as mystified as everyone else by the lengthy stoppage after light rain got onto the surface before the roof slid shut.

"It was very strange that for more than an hour the situation was not changing at all for the better," Djokovic told reporters. "Hopefully they'll fix (it) because if it starts raining, if you can't play under the roof, that's a little bit of an issue for schedule."

Five-time champion Venus Williams made her record 24th appearance in the women's singles, aged 43. But any hope of rolling back the years was ended by Ukraine's Elina Svitolina who won 6-4 6-3 in a high-profile battle of the wildcards.