A knee-addled Rafael Nadal exited Wimbledon in the first round Monday when Challenger-level player Steve Darcis defeated the No. 5-seeded Spaniard and former champ 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 6-4.
After his win at Roland Garros two weeks ago, Nadal withdrew from his scheduled grasscourt appearance in Halle due to knee pain. Against Darcis, Nadal appeared to be moving gingerly at the beginning of the match and was limping by the third set.
“Sometimes you play well and you have the chance to win,” Nadal said. “Sometimes you play worse and your opponent plays well and you lose. I just want to congratulate Darcis. I think he played a fantastic match. At the end is not a tragedy. That is sport.”
Top 10-seeded winners on opening day were No. 2 Andy Murray defeating German Benjamin Becker, No. 3 Roger Federer over Victor Hanescu, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga topping Belgian David Goffin, and No. 10 Marin Cilic over Marcos Baghdatis, all in straight sets.
“I was moving pretty well even though I thought it was quite slippery, because it is opening Monday,” said the defending champion Federer. “I think I handled that well. Was just a bit of a breeze and it was cold. I’m happy to get out of there early and quickly. So it was a perfect day.”
Murray, carrying British hopes as usual, came into Wimbledon on the heels of a victory at Queen’s Club.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I expect a lot of myself,” Murray said. “It matters what’s going on in my head, what I’m feeling while I’m on the court. And I think I’ve done a good job of putting that other stuff to the back of my head and just concentrate on what’s going on out there.”
Also orchestrating upsets Monday were former champ Lleyton Hewitt dismissing No. 11 Stan Wawrinka, Serb Viktor Troicki ousting No. 14-seeded countryman Janko Tipsarevic, and Jurgen Melzer bouncing No. 30 Fabio Fognini from a set down.
Notable unseeded winners into the second round were Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco who defeated Xavier “X-Man” Malisse from a set down, Ernests Gulbis, Nicolas Mahut, and Radek “The Worm” Stepanek.
Entertaining meetings to look for Tuesday at the All England Club are (13) Tommy Haas vs. Dmitry Tursunov, (19) Gilles Simon vs. Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez, (21) Sam Querrey vs. Bernard Tomic, and (28) Jeremy Chardy vs. Ryan Harrison.
The No. 5 seed also lost on the women’s side Monday as claycourter Sara Errani was strummed 6-3, 6-2 by Puerto Rican riser Monica Puig.
“It’s great to pull off some big career wins and getting over the fear of closing out those matches, which was my problem at the beginning of the year,” Puig said. “I had a very good run at the French Open, getting to the third round, and it’s good to build on that momentum…It takes some time to get used to the grass and I’m trying to adjust my game a little bit.”
Top 10-seeded winners were No. 2 Victoria Azarenka rolling Portugal’s Maria Joao Koehler despite a scary fall on the grass, No. 3 Maria Sharapova struggling past French former junior Wimbledon champ Kristina Mladenovic 7-6(5), 6-3, No. 8 seed and former champ Petra Kvitova fighting past fellow big hitter Coco Vandeweghe of the U.S. 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, and No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki pounding Spaniard Estrella Cabeza Candela.
“It felt really painful,” said Azarenka, who fell and twisted her knee leading 6-1, 1-0, crying while being treated before resuming the match. “One moment it was getting better, then it was inconsistent — but I just wanted to give everything I had on the court even though I knew it could get worse out there…I’m pretty proud of the way I programmed my mind and took it one at a time, because it’s never easy. At one point I couldn’t even see the ball — all I could think about was what happened. So that shock took a while for me to get over.”
Sharapova put down a stern challenge from the Frenchwoman Mladenovic after edging out a first-set tiebreak.
“I had a really tough first round. I expected it,” Sharapova said. “I knew she would come out playing extremely well. I think she has a good game for the grasscourts. She has, as you saw, a very good serve, a good first serve. The first set we didn’t break each other. Women’s tennis, kind of rare.”
Czech qualifier Eva Birnerova was the other upset-maker Monday, bouncing No. 26 Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Unseeded winners of note into the second round were Serb Bojana Jovanovski edging Croatian qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic 9-7 in the third, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher De Brito beating American Melanie Oudin in three, (WC) Andrea Petkovic, and Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska ending Croat riser Donna Vekic’s Wimbledon 6-3, 6-1.
Matches to look for Tuesday are bountiful, including (1) Serena Williams vs. Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella, (10) Maria Kirilenko vs. Brit favorite Laura Robson, Brit Heather Watson vs. American Madison Keys, veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. (7) Angelique Kerber, grass specialist Michaella Krajicek vs. (6) Na Li, (21) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. grasscourt specialist Tsvetana Pironkova, (32) Klara Zakopalova vs. veteran Daniela Hantuchova, (31) Romina Oprandi vs. American riser Alison Riske, Spanish veteran Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. (24) Shuai Peng, and (23) Sabine Lisicki vs. Slam champ Francesca Schiavone.
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