LONDON • This is surely the most open Wimbledon women's singles draw in years, yet Angelique Kerber did little to suggest her name will be in the mix come the later stages as she stuttered past world No. 247 Irina Falconi in the first round yesterday.
On the surface, the 6-4, 6-4 victory in 87 minutes looked straightforward, but this was not the demolition many on Centre Court came expecting. Kerber had too many unforced errors, especially in the first set where there were 13 of them compared to eight winners.
The world No. 1 has had a fitful year - she was a first-round loser at the French Open - but initially played as if she had never been away from SW19 as she broke serve twice to go 3-0 up in the first set.
At this stage Falconi looked nervy and lost. She had never won a match at Wimbledon in four attempts, and never beaten a top-10 player in 10 attempts. And, the only time the pair had previously met, in 2013, Kerber ran through her in straight sets, losing only five games.
Yet strangely, Kerber's forehands kept finding the net or going long.
Falconi broke back and kept it close throughout the rest of the first set before going down 4-6 in 48 minutes.
With the crowd urging her on, the American had her moments in the second set too. At 0-30 down on serve at 2-2, she stretched to make a forehand drop volley.
Men's 1st rd: Mischa Zverev (Ger) bt Bernard Tomic (Aus) 6-4 6-3 6-4, David Ferrer (Esp) bt Richard Gasquet (Fra) 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-2. Milos Raonic (Can) bt Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 7-6 (7-4).
Women's 1st rd: Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Ekaterina Alexandrova (Rus) 6-2 6-4, Coco Vandeweghe (USA) bt Mona Barthel (Ger) 7-5 6-2, Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) bt Magda Linette (Pol) 1-6 6-2 6-3.
She then hit one of her hardest forehand winners of the match. But it was to no avail as she was broken to go 2-3 down. With the help of a shanked winner off her racket and a lucky net cord, she broke back to make it 3-3. But at 4-4 in the second set, she threw away her service game and Kerber needed no invitation to wrap up the match.
"The first round here is always tough," said the two-time Major champion. "She had nothing to lose. She came through the qualifiers. It was a good match from both of us and it is always good to have a difficult match in the first round."
By the end of Wimbledon, the German will have spent 35 weeks as the No. 1. Yet the crown rests uneasily on her head, and unless she makes a deep run, she may lose the top spot to Czech Karolina Pliskova or Romania's Simona Halep. Kerber will face Belgian world No. 88 Kirsten Flipkens for a place in the last 32.
In the men's draw yesterday, Bernard Tomic sparked controversy when he claimed that he felt "a little bit bored out there" following his 4-6, 3-6, 4-6 loss to Mischa Zverev of Germany.
"I'm 24. I came on Tour at 16, 17... this is my eighth Wimbledon or ninth I think," the Australian said.
"It's tough to find motivation, you know."
Elsewhere, world No. 4 Novak Djokovic advanced to the second round after Martin Klizan of Slovakia retired with a sore calf when he was down 3-6, 0-2. Likewise, Roger Federer moved on after Alexandr Dolgopolov retired when down 3-6, 0-3, disappointing Centre Court fans again.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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