Wimbledon: Former champion Petra Kvitova falls at first hurdle
Rafael Nadal comes through first-round clash without trouble
Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus returns to Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in their first-round match at Wimbledon. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA
Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Israel’s Dudi Sela 6-3 6-3 6-2 in their first-round match at Wimbledon. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
Eighth seed Kvitova, who withdrew from the Eastbourne tournament last week with a hamstring injury, appeared to be moving well but looked pale and drawn particularly in the first set.
Kvitova, 28, has worked hard this year, winning five titles. The Czech, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, won back to back tournaments in Prague and Madrid, and successfully defended her title on grass in Birmingham last month.
Sasnovich, 24, kept her cool throughout the two hour 14 minute match. She went for her shots, served with pace and variety and played big points apparently without nerves.
That was until the 10th game of the second set, when, serving to stay in the set, she started to feel the pressure.
She served two double faults to give big-hitting Kvitova set point and though she saved that one, she lost the set with a forehand out wide.
The wobble seemed to galvanise the Belarusian, however.
She came out fighting in the third set, capturing game after game with steady defence and exquisite shot-making, including drop-shot winners and getting the better of a volley rally at the net.
Kvitova, by contrast, showed only flashes of her old grasscourt brilliance and produced 36 unforced errors. She sent down aces but missed simple forehands and was troubled by the wind as well as her own lack of composure.
Sasnovich completed victory with two aces in a fitting end to a fine performance.
“It was a good match but I can play better as well,” Sasnovich said. “I was just warming up when the match was 5-0.”
Garbine Muguruza was not feeling burdened by being the defending champion as her campaign got off to an impressive start.
The Spaniard was the queen of Centre Court in 2017, beating Venus Williams in the final, and she enjoyed her return there with a 6-2 7-5 success over British number four Naomi Broady.
She made slightly hard work of it in the second set, but eventually got the job done in an hour and 30 minutes.
Muguruza is not weighed down by the prospect of defending her title, insisting it has made her more confident.
“I don’t feel different,” she said. “I do feel more confident knowing that I won Wimbledon.
“It’s a Grand Slam. It’s a grass court. It gives you this extra thing that not everybody can have.
“I think as a tennis player, when you win Wimbledon, I think it’s winning the best tournament. I don’t know, your mind is like, ‘I won Wimbledon, priceless’.
“The nerves are never going to go away. Even if you don’t defend, you’re always nervous.
“The first round, big tournament. I have really learned a different perspective, you know, to not worry for no reason.”
Rafael Nadal will face sterner tests than Dudi Sela if he is to complete a third French Open/Wimbledon double this year but was impressive all the same as he bounded into round two with a 6-3 6-3 6-2 win.
The 32-year-old Spanish second seed had not played a match since claiming his 11th French Open last month.
But he showed no sign of rust on a sultry Centre Court as he quickly found his rhythm against the 127th-ranked Israeli who resisted well early on before Nadal seized control.
A Sela double-fault secured Nadal the break of serve he needed in the first set and Nadal moved two sets clear with a punishing forehand return.
His only blemish came at the start of the third when a double-fault gave Sela a break but he quickly repaired the damage and powered on to victory.
Nadal is looking to emulate his 2008 and 2011 feats when he won the Wimbledon title fresh from triumphing in Paris.
Only Bjorn Borg has managed it three times, his doubles coming in successive years from 1978-1980.
MEN’S FIRST ROUND
(2) Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Dudi Sela (Isr) 6-3 6-3 6-2
(4) Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt James Duckworth (Aus) 7-5 6-2 6-0
(5) Juan Martin Del Potro (Arg) bt Peter Gojowczyk (Ger) 6-3 6-4 6-3
Marcos Baghdatis (Cyp) bt (7) Dominic Thiem (Aut) 6-4 7-5 2-0 ret
Matthew Ebden (Aus) bt (10) David Goffin (Bel) 6-4 6-3 6-4
(14) Diego Sebastian Schwartzman (Arg) bt Mirza Basic (Bih) 6-3 6-2 6-1
(15) Nick Kyrgios (Aus) bt Denis Istomin (Uzb) 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3
(19) Fabio Fognini (Ita) bt Taro Daniel (Jpn) 3-6 6-3 6-3 6-3
Radu Albot (Mol) bt (20) Pablo Carreno-Busta (Esp) 3-6 6-0 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-1 (21) Kyle Edmund (Brit) bt Alex Bolt (Aus) 6-2 6-3 7-5
(27) Damir Dzumhur (Bih) bt Maximilian Marterer (Ger) 6-3 6-2 6-4
Alex De Minaur (Aus) bt (29) Marco Cecchinato (Ita) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4
Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt (30) Fernando Verdasco (Esp) 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-3
Feliciano Lopez (Esp) bt Federico Delbonis (Arg) 6-3 6-4 6-2
Bernard Tomic (Aus) bt Hubert Hurkacz (Pol) 6-4 6-2 7-6 (7-2)
Jiri Vesely (Cze) bt Florian Mayer (Ger) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 4-6 6-1
Ernests Gulbis (Lat) bt Jay Clarke (Brit) 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-4
Bradley Klahn (USA) bt Yuichi Sugita (Jpn) 2-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 6-2
Taylor Harry Fritz (USA) bt Lorenzo Sonego (Ita) 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2
Simone Bolelli (Ita) bt Pablo Cuevas (Uru) 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) 6-1
Stephane Robert (Fra) bt Albert Ramos-Vinolas (Esp) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-1
Robin Haase (Ned) bt Marius Copil (Rom) 7-6 (7-0) 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-4)
Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) bt Vasek Pospisil (Can) 6-4 3-6 6-2 6-3
Karen Khachanov (Rus) bt David Ferrer (Esp) 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 7-5
Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra) bt Mischa Zverev (Ger) 6-4 6-3 6-4
WOMEN’S FIRST ROUND
(3) Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Naomi Broady (Brit) 6-2 7-5
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Blr) bt (8) Petra Kvitova (Cze) 6-4 4-6 6-0
(11) Angelique Kerber (Ger) bt Vera Zvonareva (Rus) 7-5 6-3
(17) Ashleigh Barty (Aus) bt Stefanie Voegele (Swi) 7-5 6-3
(22) Johanna Konta (Brit) bt Natalia Vikhlyantseva (Rus) 7-5 7-6 (9-7)
(26) Daria Gavrilova (Aus) bt Caroline Dolehide (USA) 6-2 6-3
(28) Anett Kontaveit (Est) bt Denisa Allertova (Cze) 6-2 6-2
Samantha Stosur (Aus) bt Shuai Peng (Chn) 6-4 7-5
Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) bt Alize Cornet (Fra) 7-6 (7-3) 6-1
Alison Van Uytvanck (Bel) bt Polona Hercog (Slo) 6-2 6-2
Eugenie Bouchard (Can) bt Gabriella Taylor (Brit) 6-0 4-6 6-3
Jennifer Brady (USA) bt Kateryna Kozlova (Ukr) 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 6-2
Taylor Townsend (USA) bt Pauline Parmentier (Fra) 6-2 6-4
Saisai Zheng (Chn) bt Qiang Wang (Chn) 6-3 4-6 6-