Undeterred by the divided attention of sports enthusiasts in the wake of FIFA World Cup in Brazil, year’s third Grand Slam, and inarguably the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, began near London on Monday. Ivan Lendl famously said once that he would willingly trade all his championship trophies for just one Wimbledon crown. There is an aura about Wimbledon among players, organizers, spectators and followers around the world that is special and unmatched.
Last year’s two champions Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli have problems of their own. Bartoli announced her retirement from tennis after she won the coveted trophy and for the second time in history, a woman will not be defending her title. It happened once in 1997, when Steffi Graf did the same thing. Murray has other issues since his championship match last year against Novak Djokovic. Within a few months, he had to undergo a major surgery and after a long period of recuperation, he returned to the tennis courts. His progress through 2014 has been slow and he has not won a major tournament this year. Moreover, he has been without a coach for a while, after his split with Lendl, with whom he worked for nearly two and half years. It was Lendl with him at Wimbledon last year, when he held that trophy at the center court. Now Murray has a new coach in former women’s Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. Despite criticism in the media on his choice of the coach, Murray has shrugged off and moved on.
Murray’s chances of repeating his feat has been compared by British press to scaling a mountain a second time, after it was conquered once. Such efforts have been described as a much less inspiring adventure in comparison to his historical triumph last year. But Murray has stayed positive in the face of all sorts of things being talked about him. On Monday, he began his title-defense with the first round encounter with Belgium’s David Goffin. The third-seeded Murray did not have a great match, despite winning 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 against Goffin. But most people waited for the defending champion to customarily open the 2014 Wimbledon Tournament at the center court.
It was before this match that the British public got its first glimpse of Murray in association with his new coach Mauresmo. Simon Barnes of The Times described it as “Re-invented, re-launched, re-bored, re-aimed, re-thought.” But unlike former British tennis star Virginia wade, Barnes was positive in his opinion as he went on to write that Mauresmo could be better than the eternally brooding Ivan Lendl in Murray’s box. Wade had earlier criticized Murray for his choice of a female coach. The Wimbledon draw this year has been kind to Murray, as his next round opponent is an unknown Slovenian going by the name of Blaz Rola, who broke into top 200 in October 2013. When Rola was asked by media about his upcoming match with the defending champion at the historical center court, Rola replied “Hopefully, I don’t poop my pants and play well”.
First day’s play was affected by rains and at least 7 matches had to be suspended. After Murray’s first round victory, there was a marathon later in the day. On court 18, Italian Fabio Fognini lost two sets in his match against American qualifier, Alex Kuznetsov. But in a tenacious fight back, the 16th seeded Fognini came back to win the next three sets and finished with a 2-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 9-7 victory. In a major upset of the day, 18th seed Sloane Stephens of USA lost to Maria Kirilenko of Russia 2-6, 6-7.