Too close for comfort

Al Jazeera's Chris Tortise says Roger Federer will be spurred on by his Wimbledon scare.

    Defeat for the defending champion would have been a major upset [GALLO/GETTY]

    There was an odd atmosphere around the lush grass of Wimbledon on Monday.

    The first round of the 2010 Championships had begun, and Roger Federer had taken to the court against his Colombian opponent Alejandro Falla.

    "First set, Falla." Not to worry, Federer will come back.

    "Second set, Falla." Right. Are we looking at the greatest upset in Wimbledon history?

    Fourth set, and Falla serves for the match. The tennis world holds its breath.

    "Game, set and match, Federer." The tennis world can finally breathe again.

    That was a little too close for comfort for the defending champion.

    After his first ever defeat at the warm-up event in Halle at the hands of Lleyton Hewitt, the Swiss master is looking vulnerable.

    And yet, I can't help feeling that the match will spur him on in the tournament. He has reached the final every year since 2003, and will probably do it again.

    He wasn't the only seed to struggle in round one, though.

    Third seeded Novak Djokovic was also taken to five sets against the diminutive Olivier Rochus of Belgium.

    Grass has never been the Serb's best surface, and with Hewitt lurking in the fourth round, he could again struggle to make the latter stages.

    Last year's losing finalist, Andy Roddick, is in the same quarter of the draw, and you'd expect him to move through it with ease.

    Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray both looked strong in their opening match; the Scot especially looked very impressive in the latter stages of his match.

    But some big names have dropped already, with clay-loving Verdasco and Ferrero out. Cilic and Ljubicic also fell at the first hurdle, when they should've progressed further.

    The women's draw was sadly hit with the withdrawal of Elena Dementieva last week.

    The top-ranked Russian in the world picked up a leg injury at the French Open, and her absence will be missed following her successive semi-final appearances.

    That paves the way for the Williams sisters to meet in the final yet again.

    Both looked strong, impressive and hungry for yet another Grand Slam title. And who could stop them?

    The luck of the draw has pitted the only other likely candidates against each other as early as the fourth round.

    Fight for the right

    Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, the Belgian powerhouses of the women's game, will have to fight it out for the right to take on Venus in the semi-final.

    Third seed Caroline Wozniacki utterly demolished her first round opponent on Tuesday, but doesn't have that killer shot you need on a grass court.

    With a resurgent Victoria Azarenka lurking in her part of the draw, she will do well to reach the semi-finals.

    Jelena Jankovic is pitched in the same quarter as the Belgians, but had to fight through her first round encounter with 16-year-old home hope Laura Robson.

    The left-hander has been touted as the British saviour of tennis, and pushed her Serbian opponent all the way.

    But, as always, some top seeds have to fall in the first round.

    It wouldn't be Wimbledon without it.

    And for the first time in the Open era, both finalists from the French Open crashed out.

    Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone and runner-up Sam Stosur didn't play like their seeding suggested – fifth and sixth respectively.

    Spare a thought for poor Ana Ivanovic, the Serb dumped out in the first round to plunge her decline into further disaster.

    But keep your eyes on Heather Watson, another British teenager who played out of her skin.

    Watson took a set off Romina Oprandi – and even had a break in the third set – and the 18-year-old looks a bright prospect for the future.

    So the women's seeds outperformed the men's in the first round, for the first time since I remember obsessively poring over the Wimbledon draw.

    Yet I expect very few shocks in round two. Federer and Djokovic will want to tighten their belts and prove they have the credentials to win the title.

    And the Williams sisters will be looking to continue their dominance of the greatest tournament in the tennis calendar.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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