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Wimbledon: Djokovic, Wawrinka, Serena, Hewitt star on Day 1

Can Roger Federer win a record eighth Wimbledon title? Will Serena Williams complete the “Serena Slam” and get a step closer to the Calendar Slam? Will Novak Djokovic recover from his French Open heartbreak? These are some of the many questions that will dominate the Wimbledon Championships on a packed opening day that features half the singles draw in action.

sports Updated: Jun 29, 2015 15:18 IST
Manoj Bhagavatula
Manoj Bhagavatula
Hindustan Times
Wimbledon 2015,Novak Djokovic,Stan Wawrinka

Can Roger Federer win a record eighth Wimbledon title? Will Serena Williams complete the “Serena Slam” and get a step closer to the Calendar Slam? Will Novak Djokovic recover from his French Open heartbreak?

These are some of the many questions that will dominate the Wimbledon Championships on a packed opening day that features half the singles draw in action, with 64 first-round singles matches and five doubles matches to be played.

With so much tennis on offer, here are some of the important clashes to look out for:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs Philipp Kohlschreiber

A composite photo of Philipp Kohlschreiber, left, and Novak Djokovic.

In keeping with the Wimbledon tradition of defending champions getting the tournament underway, Djokovic will be first up on Centre Court.

The top-ranked, top-seeded Djokovic leads his head-to-head against the 33rd-ranked, unseeded Kohlschreiber 6-1. The German’s sole win against the Serb came in the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2009, which, incidentally, was the last time Djokovic was ousted from a Grand Slam before the quarter-finals.

On paper, at least, episode eight of Djokovic-Kohlschreiber appears more intriguing than the head-to-head might suggest. The German is no slouch on grass. With his single-handed backhand and solid serve, he is always a difficult opponent. He won the Gerry Weber Open grass-court tournament in Halle in 2011, and finished runner-up there in 2008. At Wimbledon, he has advanced as far as the quarter-finals.

In addition, the match will be Djokovic’s first competitive outing since his dream of hoisting the French Open was shattered by Swiss World No 4 Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final three weeks ago. The defending champion hasn’t played a single warm-up tournament. He did, however, play a couple of matches at The Boodles exhibition event, losing one in a surprising straight sets defeat to German teenager Alexander Zverev.

It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the loss in the French Open final will have had on Djokovic. Will there be any scar tissue from that defeat? Will his decision to not play a warm-up tournamet hurt him?

Djokovic is too good a player to lose this one. He is the World No 1 after all, and making the transition from clay to grass is not as difficult for him as it is for someone like Rafael Nadal. However, Kohlschreiber is, by Djokovic’s own admission, “one of the toughest first round matches” he could have got. The Serb might take a while, but he should come through this one.

Jarkko Nieminen vs Lleyton Hewitt

A composite photo of Jarkko Nieminen, left, and Lleyton Hewitt.

These two are no big names, but this battle will be interesting because it is the final Wimbledon appearance for these veterans of the tour, and unfortunately only one of them will progress to the second round.

Lleyton Hewitt, 34, announced earlier this year that the 2016 Australian Open will be his swansong. After losing in the first round of the Topshelf Open in the Netherlands to eventual champion Nicolas Mahut and in the first round of Queen’s Club to Kevin Anderson, Hewitt hasn’t had as many matches on grass as he would have liked. However, the Aussie insisted he’d like to make an impact in his 17th Wimbledon.

Hewitt will feel encouraged by his 5-0 head-to-head against the 33-year-old Nieminen, who announced that the tournament in Stockholm later this year would be his last. Hewitt’s greatest quality is his pluck, Nieminen’s his lefty forehand.

Despite the one-sided rivalry, this should be a close match.

Stanislas Wawrinka (4) vs Joao Sousa

A composite photo of Joao Sousa, left, and Stan Wawrinka.

The French Open champion will open his bid to join Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Federer and Nadal as the only back-to-back winners of Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the Open Era with a rematch of his first round at Wimbledon last year, against Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

Wawrinka leads the rivalry 2-0. Granted, the Swiss lost his second-round match at Queen’s Club to Anderson, and last year’s quarter-final loss to Federer is his best showing at the All England Club thus far. However, as the French Open showed, Stan’s performances at the warm-up events have little bearing on how he plays at the majors. He has also started to make a bit of a habit of doing well at events he has traditionally struggled at.

With the form he is in, it’s hard to argue against the rivalry becoming 3-0.

Other notable encounters

Serena Williams (1) vs Margarita Gasparyan

The World No. 1 will begin her bid to complete the "Serena Slam" – holding all four Slams at the same time – for a second time, and will also attempt to get one step closer to completing the Calendar Grand Slam – winning all four majors in a season – by opening against 113th-ranked Russian qualifier Gasparyan.

Grigor Dimitrov (11) vs Federico Delbonis

Dimitrov had an excellent 2014 season; the Bulgarian reached a career-high ranking of 11 and won three titles, including the Queen’s Club warm-up event. He went on to make his first Grand Slam semi-final appearance, at Wimbledon, with a straight-sets defeat of defending champion Murray in the quarter-finals.

In 2015, however, Dimitrov has struggled, amassing a 19-12 win-loss record thus far, and has, at times, looked flat and bereft of motivation on court.

Argentina’s Delbonis has lost all four career matches on grass, in singles and doubles. He is 0-10 in sets played. If Dimitrov is to turnaround his season at Wimbledon, he could not have asked for a better first-round opponent.

Maria Sharapova (4) vs Johanna Konta

The 2004 champion will open her bid for a second Wimbledon title against Britain No 2 Johanna Konta, feeling refreshed after the three-week break between Roland Garros and Wimbledon allowed her to recover from a persistent case of the flu. Although Konta has yet to make it out of the first round in three Wimbledon appearances thus far, in 2012, '13 and '14, she will fancy her chances this time after encouraging runs to the quarter-finals at Nottingham and Eastbourne.

Heather Watson vs Caroline Garcia (32)

British No 1 Watson will take on France's Caroline Garcia, who will be glad to be playing away from home after her horror first-round loss to Donna Vekic at Roland Garros.

Five-time champion Venus Williams, as well as Ana Ivanovic, are also in action on Monday. So are 2014 semi-finalists Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic. Italy's Simone Bolelli will take on 5th seed Kei Nishikori of Japan while Australian Nick Kyrgios, who upset Nadal in the fourth round last year, will face Argentina's Diego Schwartzman.

First Published: Jun 29, 2015 14:27 IST