Some people watch the opening rounds of majors to see the top players drub lesser competition, perhaps gauging fitness by just how badly, say, Roger Federer beats Mikhail Kukushkin. I get much more enjoyment out of the matches on Court 15, between players who are almost certainly not going to be around a week from now.
Last week’s qualifying rounds gave us a great group of contenders, plus another five lucky losers. Wimbledon is also fairly unique in giving a handful of its eight wild cards to non-local players, giving a few free spots to players with good track records at the tournament (Arnaud Clement, Alejandro Falla) or guys on recent hot streaks (Dudi Sela). Taken together, there are dozens of good early-round matches that can be enjoyed without the slightest reference to the thankfully-concluded Isner-Mahut first-rounder.
Let’s go to the bullet points:
- Perhaps the biggest upset of the first round was Bernard Tomic’s straight-set win over Nikolay Davydenko. Tomic is on the way up, and it’s ever more apparent that Davydenko is on the way out. Tomic will next play Igor Andreev, who needed five sets to get past Teymuraz Gabashvili.
- “Upset” may not be the right word, but I was somewhat surprised that Lleyton Hewitt was healthy enough to play today, let alone to beat Kei Nishikori. The Aussie shouldn’t have much of a chance against Robin Soderling, but then again, Soderling’s performance was one of the weakest in the first round among the top seeds.
- Grega Zemlja was one of two lucky losers to reach the second round; he beat Lucas Lacko to do so. Lacko has been a bit of a mystery; he has posted a handful of solid wins in the last few years, but he hasn’t been able to stick in the top 100. This was a big opportunity to get into a slam, and he let it go by.
- The other very-lucky lucky loser was Ryan Harrison, who handled Ivan Dodig in straight sets. Harrison bagelled the Croatian in the second, reeling off 25 of 33 points. Depending on how some other lowly-ranked players do this week, the win might move Harrison into the ATP top 100. His second-rounder against David Ferrer should be fun to watch, even if the conclusion is a given.
- Frenchman Kenny De Schepper is ranked outside of the top 200, but he gave Olivier Rochus a real test today, pushing the Belgian to five sets. My algorithm didn’t give De Schepper much credit, but apparently he didn’t check the numbers before heading out on court today.
- Dudi Sela, in on a WC this year after stringing together some challenger titles this spring, had an easy first-rounder against Frederico Gil. Gil always seems to be an easy match for somebody at a slam, yet he never leaves the top 100 for long.
- Marinko Matosevic missed a big opportunity, falling to Juan Ignacio Chela without much of a fight. Matosevic has a one-dimensional game, but when that dimension is a serve, a player still has a chance at the AEC. Now the pressure is on Alex Bogomolov, another lower-ranked player who my algorithm favors over Chela.