Roof stays open, Federer wins to start Wimbledon
AP Sports Writer
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – The new roof wasn’t tested. Roger Federer was – briefly.
The retractable roof stayed open Monday for the first match on Centre Court at Wimbledon, and Federer fell behind early before charging past Yen-hsun Lee of Taiwan, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
Federer failed to convert his first four break-point chances, then lost serve to trail 3-2. But he immediately broke back, broke again in the final game of the first set and dominated from there.
“I thought I played really well,” Federer said. “My opponent was tough.”
Bidding for his sixth Wimbledon title, Federer won for the 41st time in his past 42 matches at the All England Club. The lone loss came in last year’s final to Rafael Nadal, a match hailed by some as the sport’s best ever.
The tournament began in cloudy but dry weather. When it rains, the translucent roof on the 87-year-old stadium will be closed so play can continue.
Like Federer, 2004 women’s Maria Sharapova overcame a slow start. She won the final four games of the first set and beat qualifier Viktoriya Kutuzova 7-5, 6-4.
“She’s a very aggressive player,” Sharapova said. “She went for many shots very freely and loosely, and I was just trying to hold on.”
Sharapova, making a comeback from shoulder surgery last October, saved a set point in the opening set with a forehand winner and later shook off two awkward spills behind the baseline.
The first seeded player to lose was No. 17 James Blake, who was beaten by Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (5). Blake failed to convert a set point in the third set and squandered a 5-love lead in the tiebreaker.
Blake also lost in the first round at the French Open last month.
“I still feel like I can play with anyone in the world, but it’s just for some reason lately it has been very inconsistent,” he said. “I know I still have the ability. It’s just frustrating, because it’s happening at big tournaments where I’m having my not-so-good performances.”
For the first match on an immaculate Centre Court, Federer entered sporting a sleek new white warmup outfit with gold trim that included a jacket with a turned-up collar, a vest, slacks and two-toned shoes. The crowd roared when he appeared, and he responded with a wave and smile.
There were more cheers – and a few whistles of approval – when he removed his jacket to reveal the vest.
“Kind of a little bit more modern look – a bit more military jacket this time, but obviously staying true to Wimbledon with the white colors,” Federer said. “I hope people like it.”
By the time the match started, Federer had stripped down to shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. He was assigned to play the first match on Centre Court after defending men’s champion Nadal withdrew Friday because of sore knees.
“Rafa obviously deserves his spot on Monday, but I feel very privileged and honored that they gave me the chance to do it,” Federer said. “I’m obviously a very proud member of the club here, and I’ve had so much success here, so it was very nice to do it.”
The No. 2-seeded Swiss is a strong favorite to win a record-breaking 15th major title.
After being broken early, Federer held every service game. He finished with 10 unforced errors and hit 42 winners from all over the court.
One winner was a running backhand from several steps beyond the sideline, which he ripped up the line into the corner to win the point. It was a spectacular shot even by Federer’s standards, and the stoic Swiss celebrated with a raised fist as the crowd roared.