Two lower-seeded upsets made for a straight-forward opening day at Wimbledon, where No. 2 seed Simona Halep led off with a victory in her quest to take the No. 1 ranking for the first time during this fortnight.
Halep defeated New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic 6-4, 6-1.
“I knew she had a strong forehand,” said Halep, who will next meet Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia. “I didn’t know actually that she’s hitting so well the slice, so I had a little bit trouble in the first set. But then I got used to the rhythm. In the second set, it was much better. The court is a bit different than the practice courts — was tough to adjust.”
Other Top 10 winners Monday were No. 4 Elina Svitolina who edged Aussie Ashleigh Barty 7-5, 7-6(8), No. 6 Johanna Konta who eased past Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei 6-2, 6-2, No. 8 Dominika Cibulkova who survived Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 3-6, 9-7, and No. 10 Venus Williams who beat Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6(7), 6-4.
“It was extremely tough match,” she Cibulkova after closing it out 9-7 on her sixth match point. She will next meet American Jennifer Brady. “I knew it was going to be a tough one against Andrea. We know each other pretty well. I think my game suits her game, so I knew it’s gonna be tough one.”
The elder Williams sister broke down in her press conference afterwards when questions came around to her off-court court case where police ruled her at fault for a car accident where a victim died. The case is still under investigation.
“I never thought that I’d play this many [Wimbledons], but I’m grateful to be here and to play,” Williams told reporters afterwards. “I love the game.”
Lower-seeded winners Monday were No. 11 Petra Kvitova, No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 15 Elena Vesnina who beat fellow Russian Anna Blinkova 6-2 in the third, No. 17 Madison Keys, No. 18 Anastasija Sevastova, No. 21 Caroline Garcia, No. 22 Barbora Strycova, No. 25 Carla Suarez Navarro who came back to beat Eugenie Bouchard 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, and No. 27 Ana Konjuh who was surprisingly efficient in dismissing Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-4.
On the upset tip were German Carina Witthoeft outlasting No. 26 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3, 5-7, 8-6, and Czech Kristyna Pliskova, twin sister of the current world No. 2, defeating No. 31 Roberta Vinci 7-6(6), 6-2.
In all-unseeded play, former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was in early trouble before storming back to defeat American teen Catherine Bellis 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“[Bellis] is definitely not an easy opponent, especially in the first round,” Azarenka said prior to the match. “I’m here unseeded with really no ranking. I didn’t really know who I’m going to play. I expect every round to be tough. But I actually practiced with her couple of times already. I practiced with her here and in Mallorca. She’s definitely a good player. At this age you have nothing to lose, just go out there with no pressure, and playing.”
Matches to watch for Tuesday are struggling (1) Angie Kerber vs. (Q) Irini Falconi, (9) Aggie Radwanska vs. former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, (7) Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. (Q) Ons Jabeur, (5) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Timea Babos, and (19) Timea Bacsinszky vs. Olympic gold winner Monica Puig.
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