Kerber shoots down Falconi
World No. 1 far from her best but happy to have crossed first-round hurdle
Angelique Kerber enjoyed the honour of opening Centre Court proceedings yesterday in the absence of title holder Serena Williams and, while she looked far from her best, she reached the Wimbledon second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Irina Falconi.
The German world No. 1, a first-round loser at the French Open just five weeks ago, has been struggling to recapture the form that carried her into three Grand Slam finals last year.
However, Kerber, who won two of those Majors and finished runner-up to Williams at the All England Club last July, ensured she would not add her name to the list of Wimbledon top seeds to have perished in the opening round.
Instead, she survived the plucky challenge of American qualifier Falconi to register her first win at a Grand Slam tournament since bowing out in the fourth round at January's Australian Open.
"When I walk on Centre Court, all the memories from last year came back," said Kerber. "I was trying to focus on today, a new match, but I'm happy to be back.
"This year is completely different, but I'm looking forward to playing my next matches.
"She had nothing to lose, she came from qualifying, and she played good.
"It's always good to have a tough match in the first round."
Next up for Kerber will be Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, who beat Japanese Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-3.
Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain put behind her shock second-round loss to Czech Jana Cepelova last year when she clinched a comfortable 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round yesterday.
Ranked No. 15, her lowest position for two years, Muguruza lost just 10 points on her first serve as she set up a second-round match against Kateryna Bondarenko or Yanina Wickmayer.
It’s always good to have a tough match in the first round.World No. 1 Angelique Kerber after her win over American qualifier Irina Falconi
On Monday, former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka sealed her comeback to Wimbledon after the birth of her son with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over American teenager Catherine Bellis.
Playing in her first Grand Slam since last year's French Open, the two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist got off to a slow start, going down 4-0 in the first set as she shook off the showcourt cobwebs nearly seven months after Leo was born in December.
But, after the Belarussian broke Bellis in the 18-year-old's first service game in the second set, she never looked back in front of a supportive crowd on No. 1 Court.
"It was wonderful. The atmosphere was really nice, and, to see how much people welcome me is really actually emotional for me. I'm very happy," said Azarenka.
"But I'm glad I was able to play on the big court, feel the atmosphere again with a lot of people and bigger court."
Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, the Wimbledon runner-up in 2014, was eliminated in the first round for the second time in three years after a 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 loss to Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.
In the men's draw, second seed Novak Djokovic was leading 6-3, 2-0 when his Slovakian opponent Martin Klizan quit with a calf injury after just 40 minutes. Djokovic will face Adam Pavlasek in round two.
Roger Federer also earned a free pass into the second round when Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov retired with an injury with the Swiss leading 6-3, 3-0. - WIRE SERVICES
Men's singles 1st rd
- Novak Djokovic (x2) bt Martin Klizan 6-3, 2-0 (Klizan retired)
- Milos Raonic (x6) bt Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)
- Gael Monfils (x15) bt Daniel Brands 6-3, 7-5, 6-4
- David Ferrer bt Richard Gasquet (x22) 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
- Juan Martin del Potro (x29) bt Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4
Women's singles 1st rd
- Angelique Kerber (x1) bt Irina Falconi 6-4, 6-4
- Garbine Muguruza (x14) bt Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 6-4
- Arina Rodionova bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (x16) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) 9-7
- Sorana Cirstea bt Kiki Bertens (x23) 7-6 (7/4), 7-5