Federer, Serena Williams off to winning starts at Wimbledon | AspenTimes.com

Federer, Serena Williams off to winning starts at Wimbledon

Stephen Wilson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Former champion Serena Williams serves to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, during their Women's Singles, first round match on the Number One Court at Wimbledon, Monday June 23, 2008. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

WIMBLEDON, England ” Returning to his favorite stage and resuming his dominant ways on grass, Roger Federer started his bid for a sixth straight Wimbledon title Monday by sweeping Dominik Hrbaty in straight sets on a sunbathed Centre Court.

Third-seeded Novak Djokovic, top-seeded woman Ana Ivanovic and two-time champion Serena Williams were among other winners on the opening day of the two-week tournament.

In keeping with tradition, Federer had the honor of opening play on the main stadium court as defending champion at the 122nd Wimbledon championships. He seemed right at home as he beat Hrbaty 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 for his 60th straight grass-court win and 35th consecutive victory at the All England Club.

“I played well. It was a good match against a good friend of mine,” Federer said. “I was consistent all the way throughout. I didn’t have to face a break point. It’s good, but never easy to open Centre Court, but it’s a real honor.”

A few minutes before Federer closed out his match, Williams completed a harder-than-expected 7-5, 6-3 win on Court 1 over Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.

Following Federer on Centre Court was Ivanovic, who beat Rossana de Los Rios of Paraguay 6-1, 6-2 in less than an hour in her first match since winning the French Open and taking over the No. 1 ranking. The Serbian player never faced a break point and ripped 13 baseline winners.

“Coming as the top seed, lots of people just expect you to win,” Ivanovic said. “You have to work hard, especially on grass. Everything is happening so fast.”

Djokovic, the Australian Open champion who could face Federer in the semifinals, overcame a poor second set on Centre Court and beat Michael Berrer 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Djokovic dropped the last five games of the second set against the German left-hander, but won the next three games while dropping only one point and cruised the rest of the way.

Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 winner and only champion in the men’s draw other than Federer, labored for 31/2 hours to subdue Robin Haase in five sets, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-2. The 20th-seeded Australian, who has been slowed by a chronic hip injury, never lost serve and celebrated a key break in the fifth with a trademark flurry of uppercut fist pumps.

The man Hewitt beat in the 2002 final, David Nalbandian, was the highest seeded player ” at No. 7 ” to lose Monday, falling 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to Canada’s Frank Dancevic.

Federer, who loves the traditions of the game, walked onto Centre Court at 1 p.m. in retro fashion ” donning a herringbone-pattern, four-button cardigan with gold trim and a stylized F on a badge on his left chest. The insignia on the buttons represent his five Wimbledon titles.

Federer had worn classic white blazers at the last two Wimbledons.

“I thought two jackets was enough,” he said. “Let’s move on to something different. We thought about something nice, like a cardigan, a jumper. I think the result is nice.”

Federer warmed up wearing the cardigan for a few minutes, then took it off and got down to business. He won the first 11 points of the match, setting the tone for a trouble-free, one-sided match.

“Every time you walk out (on Centre Court) it’s beautiful,” Federer said. “I mean the grass is beautiful. The grass is perfect. You really feel like nobody has really walked on it. It felt very special again.”

On Court 1, Williams made a fashion statement of her own. She came on wearing a white belted, thigh-length raincoat, or Mackintosh. But there was no rain in sight, so she hung the jacket on her chair. Kanepi, meanwhile, wore dark sunglasses throughout the match.

“You know, I absolutely love trench coats,” Williams said. “Now I have a wonderful white coat I can wear on the court and also in New York for those rainy days. … It’s ladylike and goes perfect with my personality. It’s very light. It’s just delectable.”

The 30-year-old Hrbaty, playing his 12th Wimbledon, had beaten Federer in their only two previous meetings ” in 2000 and 2004. But the Slovakian player, who had elbow surgery last year, has slipped to No. 273 in the rankings and had won only two matches this year on the top-tier tour.

There were some light moments in the match. In the sixth game of the first set, Hrbaty ran down a lob and, with his back to the net, flipped a reverse shot down the line past a startled Federer. As Hrbaty ran across the court with hands raised in celebration, Federer smiled and clapped his racket.

“He hit the shot of the match behind his back,” Federer said.

In the final changeover at 5-2 in the third, Hrbaty ” realizing it could be his last time on Centre Court ” sat in a chair alongside Federer and the two chatted and laughed.

“I looked over and there he was,” Federer said. “He asked if he could sit next to me. I said, ‘Sure. No problem. There’s an extra seat.'”

The two are longtime friends and former practice and doubles partners.

“He said it might be his last Wimbledon, so it was almost a little bit emotional,” Federer said. “It was quite nice he did that. It was nice to share that moment on Centre Court together.”

Hrbaty paid tribute to the champion.

“I just wanted to tell him he’s a great friend of mine and I appreciate that,” he said.

Federer will next face big-serving Swede Robin Soderling, who beat Kevin Kim of the United States 7-5, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“Robin is a dangerous player,” Federer said. “It’s not a whole lot of fun playing against him in the second round of Wimbledon already. I won’t underestimate him, that’s for sure.”

In other men’s matches, 10th seeded Marcos Baghdatis ” a semifinalist in 2006 and quarterfinalist last year ” moved into the second round by beating Steve Darcis of Belgium, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3.

Also advancing among the women was No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who overcame Mathilde Johansson of France 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3. Five lower-seeded women went out, including No. 12 Patty Schnyder. The Swiss player, who reached the fourth round last year, lost to Australia’s Casey Dellacqua 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Williams, whose Wimbledon wins in 2002 and ’03 are among her eight major titles, struggled in the first set. She fended off five break points against the French Open quarterfinalist.

The turning point came at 5-5 when Kanepi had a break point for 6-5. Williams attacked and put away a forehand volley smash, letting out a shout and pumping her fist. She held serve and Kanepi double faulted on set point in the next game. Williams was in command throughout the second set.

Defending women’s champion Venus Williams begins a bid for her fifth Wimbledon title Tuesday against wild card entry Naomi Cavaday of Britain.