Wimbledon 2023: Djokovic and Swiatek cruise to victories as rain delays play
During an exasperating pause in play, the Serbian player amusingly used a towel to wipe the grass while awaiting the ground staff’s efforts
Tennis – Wimbledon – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain – July 3, 2023 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his first round match against Argentina’s Pedro Cachin REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
The defending men’s champion, Novak Djokovic, and the top-seeded woman, Iga Swiatek, initiated their Wimbledon campaigns with impressive performances on Monday (03).
Despite a temporary pause in play on the outside courts due to rain, the anticipated climate protests failed to materialise.
At 36 years old, Djokovic, who has suffered only two losses at Wimbledon in the past ten years, commenced his journey on Centre Court.
Following a 70-minute delay, despite the closed roof, he triumphed over Argentine Pedro Cachin with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory while the ground staff diligently worked to dry the turf.
During an exasperating pause in play, the Serbian player amusingly used a towel to wipe the grass while awaiting the ground staff’s efforts. With the assistance of leaf blowers, the staff successfully completed their task, allowing Djokovic to commence his pursuit of an eighth Wimbledon title with a flying start.
On the other hand, French Open champion Swiatek left a significant mark on her least preferred surface as she convincingly defeated China’s Zhu Lin with a score of 6-1, 6-3. The match concluded under the roof of Court One due to rain.
Currently holding the top ranking, Swiatek, who recently secured her third Roland Garros victory in four years and aspires to claim her fifth Grand Slam title, is set to face Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the next round.
There were mixed fortunes for two highly-rated Americans on day one. Fourth seed Jessica Pegula advanced with a blustery 6-2 6-7(8) 6-3 win over fellow American Lauren Davis.
But 19-year-old seventh seed Coco Gauff’s hopes were shattered as she lost 6-4 4-6 6-2 to compatriot Sofia Kenin, the former Australian Open champion who came through qualifying.
“This means a lot, I had to go through qualies,” Kenin said. “I battled out there, and I took this match as any other match. I know Coco has had a great season, I’m super proud of myself.”
Earlier, the All England Club gates swung open for the start of the grasscourt major with some notable absentees but one very familiar face in Djokovic fixing his eyes on more records.
Wimbledon’s favourite son Roger Federer, now retired, the injured Rafa Nadal and Serena Williams, also retired, are hard acts to follow and fans will lament their absence.
Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios, who pushed Djokovic hard in last year’s men’s final and whose spiky presence inevitably spices the fortnight, is also missing having pulled out with a wrist injury on the eve of the slam.
But Wimbledon remains rich in plots, not least Djokovic’s quest to match Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slams, equal Federer’s eight Wimbledon crowns and move alongside the Swiss and Bjorn Borg’s record of five successive titles.
The Serbian began in serene fashion, although he was as mystified as everyone else by the lengthy stoppage after light rain got onto the surface before the roof slid shut.
“It was very strange that for more than an hour the situation was not changing at all for the better,” Djokovic told reporters. “Hopefully they’ll fix (it) because if it starts raining, if you can’t play under the roof, that’s a little bit of an issue for schedule.”
Five-time champion Venus Williams made her record 24th appearance in the women’s singles, aged 43. But any hope of rolling back the years was ended by Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina who won 6-4 6-3 in a high-profile battle of the wildcards.
Wimbledon began with heightened security and longer-than-usual wait times in the famous queue outside the grounds because of the threat of climate change protests.
There was no repeat of events at Lord’s last week when activists tried to throw orange powder on the pitch at the Ashes cricket test but fickle British weather caused more of a problem with several first-round matches not completed.
But there was still plenty for the capacity crowd to enjoy.
Italian eighth seed Jannik Sinner impressed as he trounced Argentina’s Juan Manuel Cerundolo 6-2 6-2 6-2 while fourth seed Casper Ruud of Norway had a little more trouble, dropping a set on his way past French qualifier Laurent Lokoli.
Canada’s 11th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime became the highest men’s seed to fall though, suffering a shock 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-4 defeat against American Michael Mmoh.
Andrey Rublev marked the return of Russian and Belarusian players after last year’s ban following the invasion of Ukraine as the seventh seed beat Australian Max Purcell 6-3 7-5 6-4.
Seventeen Russian and Belarusian singles players have had to sign a “nationality waiver” pledging not to support President Vladimir Putin’s regime and all are competing as neutrals, including men’s third seed Daniil Medvedev.
“I feel really happy to be back, because in general I didn’t play much Wimbledon or I was injured or (there) was (the) pandemic or then they ban us,” Rublev told reporters.
“So, of course, really special and really happy to be back in London to play at one of the best tournaments.”
Belarus’s twice Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka marked her return by beating China’s Yuan Yue 6-4 5-7 6-4.