Bartoli shines briefly before Federer steals limelight

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2014 12:26 PM

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Former champions littered Wimbledon's order of play, but it was Marion Bartoli who lit up proceedings first on Tuesday without having to wield a racket in anger.

Seven-time men's winner Roger Federer found himself booked on Court One, where he crushed Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-1 6-1 6-3 while 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt grafted away on an outside court to seal his place in the second round.

American Serena Williams was scheduled to begin her quest for a sixth women's singles title later on Center Court, after world No.1 one Rafa Nadal's assault on a third started against dangerous Slovak Martin Klizan.

Maria Sharapova, bidding for a French Open and Wimbledon double, ended the hopes of a British player named Murray - Samantha being no relation to men's singles champion Andy. The Russian crushed the local girl's hopes 6-1 6-0.

In normal circumstances Bartoli would have played Center Court's opening match on so-called Ladies Day - the honor traditionally bestowed on the defending women's champion on the second day of the tournament in southwest London.

The Frenchwoman retired shortly after her fairytale run to the title last year, sick of the physical demands of a sport that left her barely able to lift her arm above her head.

She still honored her appointment, though. The 29-year-old, clad in a summery cream outfit and platform shoes she designed herself, received a standing ovation from the packed stands as she walked on to the Center Court turf just before play started.

Holding her hand was a young player from the tennis academy for disadvantaged children that was set up by British player Elena Baltacha, who recently succumbed to cancer.

It was a typically classy piece of organization by the All England Club and a moving moment for Bartoli.

"I'm sorry I got so emotional - I couldn't hold my tears being on the Center Court and supporting #Rally4Bally at Wimbledon," Bartoli said on Twitter.

With Bartoli now retired, last year's runner-up Sabine Lisicki was asked to perform the stand-in role. The German obliged beautifully, easing past Israel's Julia Glushko 6-2 6-1.

But for all the early theater, it was men's fourth seed Federer who stole the show, again proving he remains a force to be reckoned with at the home of grasscourt tennis. The dashing Swiss produced some dazzling moments to outclass felow 32-year-old Lorenzi.

"INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED"

Federer did stutter in the penultimate game, wasting five match points before putting his opponent out of his misery to claim his 269th grand slam match victory and leave the hapless Italian still hunting his first.

"I'm very happy getting through my first round. I thought I played very well," the 17-time grand slam champion told the BBC. "What you want to feel is inspired and motivated. I'm trying to win the tournament, that's what I'm here for."

Fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka can only marvel at Federer's feats at Wimbledon, but the fifth seed at least managed to avoid a sixth first-round exit on Tuesday, overpowering Portuguese claycourt specialist Joao Sousa 6-3 6-4 6-3.

"It's a quicker surface. It's a surface if you are not completely confident and relaxed with your game, you have some problems," said the winner of this year's Australian Open.

"That's why I had problems in the past. You have to play your best game when you play against a good player on grass."

Twice former semi-finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needed only four points to complete a first-round win over seasoned Austrian Jurgen Melzer, the 14th seed winning 6-1 3-6 3-6 6-2 6-4 after rain interrupted play on Monday with the Frenchman serving for the match.

Hewitt, like Federer, is contesting his 61st grand slam tournament and the experienced campaigner led an Australian charge into the second round with a four-set victory over Poland's Michal Przysiezny.

Eight Australians started in the men's main draw and five had already posted first-round wins - underlining the resurgence for the former tennis powerhouse.

In the women's draw American Madison Keys, tipped as a dark horse for the title after winning in Eastbourne last week, cruised past Puerto Rico's Monica Puig, while 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska, the fourth seed, had little trouble against Romanian Andreea Mitu.

Former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 16, beat Shahar Peer 6-3 6-0.

(Editing by David Goodman)