For Sabine Lisicki, Wimbledon’s Centre Court holds a mixture of memories. She will remember fondly her enthralling defeat of defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round 12 months ago.
She will remember with perhaps less fondness the heartbreaking defeat to Marion Bartoli in last year’s final. But time is a curious healer, and this afternoon Lisicki returns to Centre Court, afforded the honour of opening play in the absence of the now-retired Bartoli.
The Frenchwoman will be present, however, appearing on court for the coin toss, accompanied by a member of the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis. But the tennis will be all about Lisicki, and her opponent, Julia Glushko of Israel. The pair have never met, but as ever at Wimbledon, Lisicki is likely to have the upper hand.
Williams meanwhile has opened Centre Court many a time, five times to be precise, and could well be closing it for the ladies come 5 July. She was in no mood for any nonsense at her pre-Wimbledon press conference the other day, and that could spell trouble for the rest of the field in the ladies’ singles.
There haven’t been many “young things” who have regularly got the better of Williams and she will doubtless be determined to deal as summarily with the new crop as she did earlier ones. She could be forgiven for thinking they were ganging up on her because two of the biggest and brightest are in her half of the draw: the 20-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and the frighteningly powerful 19-year-old American Madison Keys.
But first things first and Williams needs to clear fellow American Anna Tatishvili from her path today. Actually, it’s Bouchard who has to negotiate a tall order in the shape of the very capable grass court player Daniela Hantuchova on No.1 Court.
Back to Keys for a moment. Few players have announced their arrival in the game as emphatically as she did in winning her first senior title at Eastbourne last week, when she overpowered that resolute fighter Angelique Kerber of Germany. It’s a tough start for her against Monica Puig, but at least it offers Keys the chance to avenge three defeats to the Puerto Rican. Keys’s attacking game should give her the edge but she will need to get her footwork right on the lush grass of Court 8.
As ever, a few of the seeds have been dealt tricky hands in the draw and it’s Serbia’s misfortune that both their leading players have: Ana Ivanovic should be playing well enough to handle former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, but Jelena Jankovic, the seventh seed, will have her work cut out on No.2 Court containing the threat of Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who has twice made the quarter-finals here.
When it comes to the men, all eyes – and not just those on Centre Court - will be on Rafael Nadal and the ability of the 14-time Grand Slam champion to negotiate the opening hurdle of the early rounds. Since reaching the 2011 final he has only won one match at Wimbledon. Martin Klizan, the world No.51, doesn’t look much like a banana skin, but the Spaniard did slip up against the Slovak in the opening set of their French Open second-round match last year.
There was a time when the only day on which both Nadal and seven-time champion Roger Federer played was the final day. This year, seeded Nos.2 and 4 respectively, they are in the same half of the draw so twice the pleasure. Both men seem to be in a good place, both physically and mentally, and Federer shouldn’t have any trouble with the Italian clay court specialist, Paolo Lorenzi, on No.1 Court. He has enough grass court specialists, such as Nicolas Mahut, Lleyton Hewitt and Fernando Lopez, potentially lying in wait for him further up the line his mettle.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
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