UNDER a curtain of rain and a roof of steel, day one of the 2011 championships drew to a close with Andy Murray cruising to a four-set win.
As first days back go, there was little jittering of nerves , as everyone settled down and behaved themselves. Not a single seed fell at the first hurdle and, true to form, the plucky Brit folded like the joker in the pack.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal wobbled to 2-4 in the opening set on Centre Court to the little-known journeyman Michael Russell. Russell, ranked near 90 in the world, looked as surprised as the rest of us and quickly righted things with a careless service game.
In an entertaining encounter, the Spaniard never looked troubled as he eased his way on to the hallowed turf.
Last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych was also in fine form, dispatching Italy’s Filippo Volandri with ease, dropping just five games.
Former child prodigy Richard Gasquet put in a confident showing against a determined Santiago Giraldo. The Frenchman is a potential fourth-round opponent for Murray and showed his class on the outside courts today.
Murray himself, bar a minor hiccup, proved no slouch in the day’s final match. Carelessly dropping the first set, the Scot went on to wrap up the ‘contest’, dropping just three games in so many sets.
Murray should face a similarly accommodating opponent on Wednesday.
The women’s game is in a sorry state. Despite almost a year without either Williams sister on tour, they still have an irresistable grip on the ladies’ draw.
With a nod to the withering standards of the tour, I propose to halve the space dedicated to the women’s round-up. They might get the same prize money, but – and rightly so – the media give them less than half the column inches and I intend to follow suit.
So, to keep it brief, Venus Williams was reliably brilliant against her hapless 6ft 3in Uzbekistani opponent. Vera Zvonereva, 2010 runner-up, wobbled and righted herself and, in the only match of any intensity or quality, former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone overcame a resurgent Jelena Dokic.
Schiavone is one of the few exponents of ‘complete tennis’ in the women’s game, equally comfortable charging the net as trading hefty blows from the baseline.
She held off an impressive challenge from Dokic and denied the Wimbledon crowd its underdog victory for the day.
This is where the true Brit lives, the gutter of the piece, hanging onto the coat tails of Murray and the reader’s goodwill to see the job through.
Wimbledon had not even been baptised in its first fit of rain before Katie O’Brien was shown the door in little more than an hour. (Need to fact check, but I think the first casualty of this year’s tournament).
O’Brien, ashamedly unplucky in a 0-6 first set, tried to rally in the second. But to no avail, dropping her serve, the ball, her trousers and anything else that comes to mind in a swift victory for 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm.
O’Brien is considering her future in the game after slipping to 215 in the rankings from a career-high of 84.