sunny wimbledon

Vasek Pospisil snapped a string of four straight losses at Wimbledon with an emphatic 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 first-round victory on Monday over Roberto Carballés Baena.

The game but outgunned Spaniard was over-matched in every aspect of the game. Most obvious was the winners to unforced errors ratio – Pospisil was 32/13 while Carballes Baena was 11/10 in the match played on Court 6. Pospisil’s break point conversion rate was 5/12 while Carballes Baena was 1/5.

The current world No. 65 broke serve to 4-2 in the opening set and was soon dominating on his way to the win in an hour and 43 minutes.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

Currently ranked No. 100, the 28-year-old Spaniard upset Denis Shapovalov 8-6 in the fifth set at Roland Garros last fall and might have been expected to challenge Pospisil in more of the baseline rallies. But with the grass bouncing low in slick conditions, Pospisil’s experience on the surface (it’s his ninth Wimbledon) and superior power made the exchanges decidedly one-sided. That combined with Pospisil’s serving – 18 aces and zero double faults – tilted the odds big-time in favour of the 31-year-old from Vancouver.

Looking ahead, Pospisil has a second-round meeting with No. 57-ranked Frances Tiafoe on Wednesday. The 23-year-old American caused the upset of the day when he beat No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on No. 1 Court.

The two have not played on the main tour but Pospisil defeated Tiafoe 6-1, 6-4 at a 2017 Challenger event in San Francisco.

Preparation on grass was surely a factor in the Tiafoe ousting of Tsitsipas. The Greek had not played since he lost the Roland Garros final to Novak Djokovic 15 days ago. He took a break in the English countryside and then had practiced for eight or nine days before Wimbledon. That did not seem like enough as his timing was off – particularly on the backhand. But kudos to Tiafoe who won the Challenger event in Birmingham the second week of Roland Garros and overall was 7-2 the past three weeks on grass. He was the bolder player and essentially outplayed Tsitsipas at just about every crucial juncture of the match.

There has been much discussion about the one fewer week this year between the delayed 2021 French Open and Wimbledon. With a three-week separation as in a normal year, Tsitsipas would have time to play a tune-up tournament on grass and probably be better prepared.

That’s just speculation and it goes against the grain of the biggest surprise on day one of the women’s event – Sloane Stephens beating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4. Stephens, 28 and now ranked a lowly No. 73, did not play a pre-Wimbledon tournament while Kvitova looked good in reaching the semi-finals of the WTA 250 event in Bad Homburg, Germany last week.   

Unquestionably grass is the outlier of the annual tennis merry-go-round, and lawn tennis is largely an acquired skill. Looking at Wimbledon’s greatest champions – Martina Navratilova holds the women’s record with nine singles titles but she did not win her first until her seventh attempt at Wimbledon. On the men’s side, Roger Federer with eight, and Pete Sampras with seven, both needed the experience of four Wimbledons before finally winning on their fifth try.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

Monday’s late start led to some odd situations in the evening with one match going on court at 8:03 p.m. London time and then most matches being called off at about 9 p.m.

That included a men’s first round between qualifiers Arthur Rinderknech of France and Oscar Otte of Germany that was even at 9-9 in the fifth set, and a woman’s match between Americans Madison Brengle and Christina McHale that Brengle leads 7-6. Final set tiebreaks are at 12-12 at Wimbledon.

Gerry Armstrong, a long-time umpire and supervisor on the ATP Tour is in his first year as the Wimbledon referee. Trying to sort out the Tuesday schedule, in view of all the delays and postponements from Monday, cannot have been an easy introduction to the job that was handled by Andrew Jarrett from 2006 until 2019.

When Armstrong and his team finally released Tuesday’s order of play it had assignments for four Canadians.

They include No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov and his opener against No. 115-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber, 37. The five-hour rain delay to start the day on Monday forced their match, scheduled for Court 3, to Tuesday and it will now be played on Court 12 at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. ET in Canada).

Entering his fourth Wimbledon, after winning the junior boys title in 2016, Shapovalov is looking for only his second main-draw win on the All England Club grass. With his exceptional racquet skills, he should be well suited to turf tennis and could be headed to a possible third-round match-up against two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, if the 34-year-old Scot is fit enough to make it that far.

Kohlschreiber, who ranked as high as No. 16 in 2012, has slipped but recently has shown signs of revival – reaching the third round at Roland Garros with a win over No. 25 Aslan Karatsev and the quarter-finals in Halle, beating No. 94 Corentin Moutet in the second round.

Leading the way among the Canadians originally slated on Tuesday’s schedule is No. 5 seed Bianca Andreescu. She plays No. 58-ranked Alizé Cornet. Andreescu is aiming for her first main-draw win at Wimbledon, while the 31-year-old Frenchwoman is playing in her 58th consecutive Grand Slam event. She trails record holder Ai Sugiyama of Japan who competed in 62 consecutively before retiring in 2009.

Second behind the 45-year-old Japanese is also retired Francesca Schiavone of Italy with 61.

Cornet defeated Andreescu 7-6(2), 7-5 in Berlin two weeks ago in their only previous meeting. Their match is scheduled for fifth on starting at 11 a.m. on No. 2 Court after three men’s matches – one a resumption with Diego Schwartzman leading Benoit Paire two sets to love – and one women’s match. With rain in the forecast for Tuesday, the Andreescu – Cornet contest might not make in on court. At least the forecast is better starting Wednesday if they are postponed on Tuesday.

Leylah Fernandez, No. 71, will play No. 34 Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 Roland Garros winner who is coming off a title at Eastbourne on Saturday.

Fernandez, 18, also has a title in 2021 – in Monterrey in March. It’s a first meeting for Fernandez and the 24-year-old Latvian – and it will take place after two women’s and two men’s matches on Court 4 following an 11 a.m. start.

Men’s No. 16 seed Félix Auger-Aliassime takes on No. 81-ranked Thiago Monteiro. The 27-year-old Brazilian lefthander has only ever played on grass at Wimbledon, with a main-draw record of 1-2. But that improves to 4-4 if Wimbledon qualifying is included over the period from 2016 to 2019.

Auger-Aliassime, a solid 6-2 on grass heading into Wimbledon, won their only previous encounter 6-3, 6-7(7), 7-6(6), 7-6(6) at the 2020 US Open. They are to be the fourth match on No. 3 Court after two women’s and one men’s match following an 11 a.m. start.

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