Katarzyna Kawa of Poland has a first-rate two-handed backhand, an iffy forehand and an un-menacing serve, as well as a healthy fighting spirit.

Monday on the opening day of Wimbledon 2022, that was enough to get her a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory over a Rebecca Marino not playing her best tennis.

Marino was particularly below par with her serve – making just 56 per cent of first serves and winning only 61 per cent of them.

Still there were opportunities for her against the No. 132-ranked qualifier. She had five break points in Kawa’s first three service games. Later she broke serve right off in the final set and carried that advantage all the way until she served for the match at 5-4. Down love-30, she hit an ace and a service winner to get to 30-all – two points away. But Kawa held on to break serve, hold her own serve to love and then take advantage of loose errors by Marino to wrap up the final game of the two-and-a-half-hour match.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

An unpredictable pattern may have been established at the end of the first set when play was interrupted by rain for an hour and 20 minutes after Marino had saved six set points with Kawa serving at 6-5. The score was deuce and when play resumed the 29-year-old Pole needed only two points to wrap up the set.

The match stats weren’t particularly flattering to either player – Marino had 29 winners and 58 unforced errors while Kawa was 26 and 50.

“I was feeling confident in that third set,” Marino said. “I thought she really stepped up on the points that mattered and I want to give her credit for that as well. It wasn’t like I was missing crazy shots – she put a lot of work in to save the match.

“She made it through qualies. She played three great matches and she has a lot of tennis under her belt and a lot of confidence. She’s a good player and it’s not like I gave the match away.”

(Marino knows something about qualifying, having done so at the first two Grand Slams of 2022 – in Australia and at Roland Garros.)

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

The always thoughtful Marino, 31 and ranked No. 104, offered interesting insight about her serve, her biggest weapon, when it’s not functioning as well as she would like.

“I try and use my legs more and try and change the placement of the ball,” she explained. “There were a lot of things I was trying to change – it’s not like I’m just a robot, like servebot style. There’s thought to it. I try to fix it. But I also think that if I increase my serve percentage too much, I’m not going for as much and the efficacy deteriorates. So there’s like a balance between getting the percentage up and going for something big.”

About the Kawa serve, Marino under-stated the obvious, saying, “it was quite slow. A lot of it was I had to generate my own pace (on the return) and that was quite challenging. I was just trying to find a way and I felt that I was attacking her serve quite well from the second set, third set (breaking Kawa four times in a row at one stage) and then she started making a lot more first serves at the end. So credit to her, she picked up her game.”

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Questioned about this Wimbledon and the particularity of not having a ranking points available, Marino said, “everyone is playing Wimbledon so there’s a lot of merit to that and it means a lot to everybody. Coming off losing, well at least there’s no points won or lost so that essentially benefits me. But I’m disappointed because it would have been really meaningful to me to have won a round at this Wimbledon …after 11 years it would have been really cool. And I was right there.”

If there had been points and she had won, she would have been back inside the top-100. “Unfortunately that’s not where we’re at with the way the dominos fell with the WTA and the (British) LTA and the decisions that were made,” she said.

As for her future plans, Marino said joking off-handedly, “hard court season somewhere in North America and hopefully it will include Canada (National Bank Open in Toronto).”

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Sometimes one forgets the human element in being on the international tennis circuit. Marino, having played in both the European clay-court and grass-court seasons, summed it up when she said referring to her hometown of Vancouver, “it’s been 10 weeks on the road – time to go home.”

But maybe not so soon – she’s on the list to play doubles with Australian Olivia Tjandramulia but they are still a ways from getting a spot – something that they probably won’t know about for sure about until Wednesday.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

On Tuesday, sixth-seeded Félix Auger-Aliassime will play his opening round against No. 45-ranked Maxime Cressy – third match on Court 3 after an 11 am (6 am ET) start.

A French-born American, the 6-foot-6 Cressy is a full-bore, serve-and-volley style player, who can also follow aggressive returns of serve to the net.

He has yet to win a main-draw match at Wimbledon but enters this year’s event off a final showing on Saturday at the ATP 250 tournament in Eastbourne – losing 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(4) to No. 14-ranked Taylor Fritz.

On grass in 2022, Auger-Aliassime reached the semi-finals of ‘s-Hertogenbosch before losing 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(5) to No. 205-ranked Tim van Rijthoven, and the quarter-finals in Halle he was eliminated 7-6(2), 7-6(4) by No. 12 Hubert Hurkacz. Both times being beaten by the eventual champion.

“It was disappointing at the time,” Auger-Aliassime said about those results, “but it doesn’t affect the confidence I have on this surface. I know that, at every tournament, I have the possibility to win and play well.”

Regarding the 25-year-old Cressy, he said, “I know him but I’ve never played him. I’ve seen what he’s done and I know how he plays. It’s not an easy first round even though all first rounds can be hard. But this one is complicated by the way he plays on this surface. The match could come down to just a few points.”

Denis Shapovalov, ranked No. 16 and seeded 13th, will face No. 62-ranked Arthur Rinderknech – fourth match on Court 16 after an 11 am (6 am ET) Tuesday start. Their head-to-head is 1-1 – the 6-foot-5 Frenchman winning 6-4, 6-4 in February in Doha and Shapovalov prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in Stockholm last fall.

“It’s not easy playing a big server who goes for his shots on a grass court,” Shapovalov said about 26-year-old Rinderknech. “But Wimbledon traditionally does play a little bit slower so it’s definitely to my advantage on that. It’ll give me a little more time. I’m expecting a long, tough match.”

The 2016 Wimbledon junior boys champion, Shapovalov is 0-3 on grass in 2022 in events at Stuttgart (Oscar Otte), Queen’s Club (Tommy Paul) and Mallorca (Benjamin Bonzi) but had his best ever Grand Slam performance a year ago when he reached the Wimbledon semi-final before losing a highly-competitive three-setter – 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-5 – to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. 

Bianca Andreescu enters Wimbledon off a tough 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 loss to No. 75-ranked Caroline Garcia in the final of the WTA 250 tournament in Bad Homburg, Germany, on Saturday. Andreescu led by a set and 4-2 and then had a point for 3-0 in the final set before failing to close out against the 28-year-old Frenchwoman, who was playing inspired tennis.

Andreescu has yet to win a match at Wimbledon in previous appearances in 2017 and 2021. But she has shown fine form at grass-court events in Berlin – a second-round loss – 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(7) – to No. 7-ranked Karolina Pliskova in a match she served for at 5-4 in the third set, and by reaching the Bad Homburg final.

“It was definitely tough losing that match because I had a lot of opportunities,” Andreescu said about the final against Garcia. “In the third set my serve let me down a little bit and honestly the match could have gone either way – it was a point here and there. I feel like matches like that really make you look at things differently. And I know I learned a lot so I’m going to use everything I learned into the next tournament.”

The current world No. 56 has shown fine form at her previous two events and, most important, she has been fit and injury free. “I played an almost three-hour match yesterday,” she said Sunday about the Bad Homburg final, “and I’m not sore at all.” Laughing, she added, “that’s never happened before.”

Andreescu plays 29-year-old qualifier, No. 224-ranked Amina Bektas of the U.S., in a match slated for Court 14 not before 5 pm (noon ET) on Tuesday.

Feature photo: Martin Sidorjak