Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Federer rolls in opener


Published:
Highlands -

LONDON - Ten years after his first Wimbledon championship, Roger Federer began his bid for a record eighth title at the All England Club on Monday with the same dominance that has defined his grass-court greatness.

Opening the tournament on Centre Court as defending champion, Federer looked right as home as he dismantled Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-3, 6-2, 6-0.

This was a grass-court clinic from Federer that lasted 68 minutes. He had 32 winners, seven aces and just six unforced errors.

He won 90 percent of the points when he put his first serve in. When his serve is clicking, Federer usually is unbeatable. On this day, he won his first 15 service points and 24 out of the first 25.

"I'm happy to get out of there early and quickly," Federer said. "So it was a perfect day."

Earlier, Wimbledon produced an upset in the women's draw with fifth-seeded Sara Errani eliminated by Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig 6-3, 6-2.

Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka overcame a right knee injury from a scary fall beating Maria Joao Koehler of Portugal 6-1, 6-2.

Azarenka screamed in pain after slipping and falling at the baseline in the second game of the second set. She sobbed on court and received medical treatment.

Playing the rest of the match with a heavy wrap on her right knee, Azarenka limped noticeably but managed to win comfortably against an opponent making her Wimbledon debut.

"I was in such pain at the beginning, it wouldn't let go," Azarenka said. "I think it calmed down."

Azarenka, a semifinalist the past two years, should get about 48 hours to recover before her next match.

"I couldn't believe what happened," she said. "I was in such shock."

Federer was followed on Centre Court by 2004 champion and third-seeded Maria Sharapova, who came through a first-set tiebreaker and beat 37th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France 7-6 (5), 6-3.

At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, Sharapova hit a cross-court backhand winner to earn a set point, which she quickly converted with an over-the-shoulder backhand volley winner off Mladenovic's lob. The Russian was in command the rest of the way.

Last year, Federer equaled Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with seven Wimbledon titles. He is now contending to become the first man to win the tournament eight times, which would bring his total of Grand Slam titles to 18.

Looking back on the last 10 years, Federer said he has continued to improve.

"Because I'm stronger, because I have the experience, because I've played so much, I'm just overall a more complete player," he said.

In keeping with tradition, Federer had the honor of playing the first match on the sport's biggest stage. This was the seventh time he strode out first on Centre Court.

"It's slightly different," he said. "Nine years ago when I came out the first time, it was the most special thing in the world. It still feels amazing. It was an absolute pleasure playing on Centre Court."

Federer came out wearing a white collared jacket with orange trim, then quickly got down to business. He never faced a break point and broke six times.

Federer has a habit of making things look easy. And so it was in the opening game when, stranded at the net, he reached behind him for a reflex forehand volley that landed in for a winner. In the third set, Federer lifted a perfect backhand lob over the 6-foot-6 Hanescu for a break and a 5-0 lead.

It didn't take long for Wimbledon to produce its first upset.

Puig slugged 38 winners in overwhelming Errani in the first match on Court 18. The 19-year-old Puig, playing her first grass-court tournament as a pro, completely outplayed the Italian veteran with her hard-hitting baseline game.

Puig said she has been building on a recent run of success, including a third-round showing at the French Open.

"Definitely pulling off some big career wins and not being afraid to close out matches, which was my problem at the beginning of the year," she said. "Finally just having the confidence to close them out."

Errani was runner-up at last year's French Open and had reached at least the semifinals of three of the last five Grand Slams. But on the slick grass at the All England club Monday, she had only 13 winners and was broken four times.

Puig squandered five match points before hitting a forehand winner past Errani to close the match. The Puerto Rican dropped her racket to the turf and covered her face in her hands.

Errani withdrew from last week's grass-court warmup at Eastbourne with a leg injury, but showed no signs of any physical problems during the match. Asked what went wrong, Errani said "a mix of everything."

"Always tough for me to play here on grass and she played very good," Errani said. "She served very good, did not make many mistakes and hit the ball strong. My big problem here is that I can't move how I want."

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