The grass court slam kicked off today and we had a wide range of upsets, five setters and expected results. My feature match heading into the day was the reigning French Open champion Rafael Nadal taking on the Aussie John Millman.
The first result to come through at this years Championships saw established grass courter Madison Keys get a solid 6-4, 6-2 win over Nao Hibino. Keys recently underwent a second wrist surgery this year just one month ago and this was her first match back so it was a very solid effort. She did start of a little rusty as she was broken immediately and fell down to a 0-2 deficit but from there on it was pretty much a seamless performance. Keys broke back and then went up a break on the Hibino’s next service game but the number 1 Japanese player broke back immediately after to level it at 4-4. At that point in the match there was on final service break for the set as Keys broke again and then served out the opener. The second set was a lot more straight forward for Keys as Hibino was struggling to get into a rhythm and the American broke early for 2-0. Hibino was lucky too get two more service holds for the set but Keys was ultimately in control the whole time. Keys hit 20 winners in the 66 minute match and just 14 unforced errors which is a very respectable stat for a player like herself who hits the ball incredibly hard.
One player to survive a very dangerous first round opponent was Elina Svitolina who overcame Ashleigh Barty 7-5, 7-6(10-8). Barty wasn’t able to make the most of her opportunities in this match and the Aussie should have been able to close out the match in straight sets. Svitolina didn’t play very well at all, especially in the first set, but she got a lot of free points from Barty. It was a very break heavy first set as both women were struggling to hold but Barty was in control for most of it as she was up 5-3. She failed to serve out the set at 5-4 and then the momentum just fell right away from her as she had lost four straight games to lose the set. She was able to regroup for the second set and even though Svitolina was the stronger throughout Barty only dropped serve once on the way to the breaker. It could have gone either way in the tiebreaker but Svitolina was too good when Barty had opportunities as the Ukranian closed out just her third victory at Wimbledon. I can’t see Svitolina going much further in the tournament because she isn’t a good grass courter but she should be happy with the win because Barty was a potentially devastating opponent.
Our feature match saw Rafael Nadal comfortably make it through to the first round with an easy 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 win over the veteran Aussie John Millman. One thing that really impressed me was how well that Nadal started playing from the word go which can be put down to the ruthless practice sessions he was had in preperation for the event. Millman only got the single game in the opener because there was barely anything he could do and he went out there like he didn’t believe he could win. It was a similar situation at the beginning of the second set as Millman fell down a double break quickly but that’s when he got some fight in him. He managed to break Nadal for the first time in the match and he looked like he might even stand a chance in that set but it was in vain as Nadal still went on to take the set comfortably. It was much of the same in the third set with Millman struggling to get games and Nadal hitting winers left, right and centre to get the win with relative ease. I was very impressed with Nadal’s backhand in this match and if he is as switched on from the start of every match as he was today he could definitely challenge for the title.
I was very surprised to see how comfortable Johanna Konta was on the way to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over the woman who beat her at the French Open Su-Wei Hsieh. There was concern for Konta after she took a nasty fall last week in Eastbourne which caused a thoracic spine injury. Konta looked a little nervous to begin with but after being at 2-2 in the first set she was putting on a show for the British crowd and didn’t drop another game in that set. Konta carried that straight into the second set as she raced out to 5-1 lead before having a slight wobble and playing a nervy game giving Hsieh a gift of not copping a breadstick set. After the nervy game, Konta went on too serve out the match in a performance that was very strong and would give the British public a lot of promise for her to go deep in this event. It is very impressive that Konta was able to play like that so soon after a fall that caused her to consider pulling out of Wimbledon.