Tsonga spoils Hewitt party
Former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, reduced to being a wildcard at the tournament he won 10 years ago, could never match the firepower of number five seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who eased to a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory in the first round on Tuesday.sports Updated: Jun 27, 2012 02:59 IST
Former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, reduced to being a wildcard at the tournament he won 10 years ago, could never match the firepower of number five seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who eased to a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory in the first round on Tuesday.
But the gritty Australian is certainly not ready to say goodbye to the place that means so much to him.
Coming off Number One court, he heard that he had also been given a wildcard to the Olympics at Wimbledon next month. "At least I get to play here again. That is a bonus," he said.
Hewitt scuttles around the court like a feisty terrier, never giving up and chasing every ball to the ends of the court.
That doggedness brought him two grand slam victories, the 2001 US Open and Wimbledon the following year. It also armed him with the determination to battle against a string of injuries from groin problems to toe surgery.
"I'm proud of myself for what I have been able to do, all the hard work it's taken to get here," he said.
A 30-strong army of Hewitt fans, sporting green and yellow shirts and baseball caps in the colours of the Australian flag, chanted; "Let's Go Lleyton, Let's Go."
But their rousing cheers were never enough to raise the game of the diminutive Hewitt against the mighty Frenchman who is ranked sixth in the world and caused a major shock at Wimbledon last year when he beat Roger Federer after fighting back from two sets down.
Hewitt is 202nd in the world rankings and has won 105 matches on grass. Only Federer of active players, with 106, has more victories on the surface.
His devoted fans chorused "Walking along, singing a song, walking in a Hewitt wonderland." It was in vain but at 31 years old Hewitt is in no hurry to head off into the sunset.
"I'd like to be back here next year," he said. "Absolutely. I'm an athlete. You never love losing. I'm still playing the game to compete, to be out there."
Four-times champion Serena Williams made an excellent start to Wimbledon on Tuesday, coming through an athletic first-round match against Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova that was tougher than the 6-2, 6-4 scoreline would suggest.
The Czech, ranked 62nd in the world, was a dogged, determined opponent for the sixth seed on Court Two, chasing down every ball.
However, she found Serena's powerful first serve tough to handle, staggering backwards like a punch-drunk boxer when the ball thundered towards her.
Serena, whose older sister Venus lost in the first round on Monday, will face either Johanna Larsson of Sweden or Hungarian qualifier Melinda Czink in the second round.
Nadal survives scare
Former champion Rafael Nadal survived an early scare to kick off his bid for a third Wimbledon title with a 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci.
Nadal, the winner in 2008 and 2010, appeared to be suffering a hangover from his record-breaking seventh French Open triumph two weeks ago as he allowed world No.80 Bellucci to race into a 4-0 lead in the first set on Centre Court.
But the Spaniard regained his composure and took the opening set in a tie-break, which seemed to break Bellucci's resolve. Nadal is bidding to equal Bjorn Borg's feat of winning the French Open and Wimbledon back to back on three occasions, will face Ivan Dodig or Lukas Rosol for a place in the last 32.