Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
Slip-ups can be costly during the five-week grass court season, both on court and on the scoreboard – something Nick Kyrgios found to his cost in his opening match at the Aegon Championships.
The Australian faces a race against time to return to full fitness with less than two weeks before the start of The Championships after suffering a heavy tumble shortly before he retired from his first-round match at the Queen’s Club, re-aggravating the left hip injury that blighted his clay court campaign.
“I got the injections a couple weeks ago, and then I was in rehab for a couple of weeks and it settled down, and then on that fall I just felt sharp pain,” said Kyrgios, who withdrew from Rome with the same problem. “So I felt pretty much everything I was feeling a month ago. It's not great at the moment. But we'll see.”
With just 21 days between the French Open finals and the first day of The Championships, everybody is keen to bank as much match play as possible to ease the adjustment from clay to grass before heading to the All England Club – particularly high-ranking seeds like Kyrgios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov, all in action on the Queen’s Club centre court on day one.
But that adjustment comes with its own problems, particularly on fresh grass courts that are slick as well as quick.
Kyrgios was locked at 4-4 in the first set of his encounter with Donald Young when he slipped trying to move to his left, landing awkwardly.
Clearly in pain, he battled on to take the American to a tiebreak but retired after losing the opening set.
“I have been playing with a sore hip for a long time,” admitted Kyrgios, who said his decision to retire was made with The Championships in mind. “I felt it was painful, and it's not really worth it. Obviously my main goal is to play well at Wimbledon, so I'm going to try and get it better and rehab it and hopefully it settles down. I'm sure it will.”
The Australian was not alone in taking a tumble – No.5 seed Tsonga was the first to fall prey to the plush centre court lawn in the opening match of the tournament. The two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist was left face-down in the turf after angling a cross-court backhand pass against Adrian Mannarino, only for his compatriot to net the volley.
No harm done, the Frenchman eased to a 6-2, 6-2 victory in little over an hour as he seeks to move swiftly on from his first round exit at Roland Garros – a rare misstep during a 2017 campaign that has seen the new father collect three titles in six months.
“I had good sense to have a grass court at my house, so I just practiced and prepared for this grass season, which is a good surface for me,” said Tsonga, the only man to take a set from Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in 2016. “Hopefully I will be able to do something good.
“Usually I'm better in the second part of the season, so I’m hoping to do the same. That's the best start of the season for me, and hopefully we will be able to continue like this. The most important thing is to take pleasure on court, and when I'm like this, I'm able to do some good things.
“I don't know what happened exactly in the first round [at Roland Garros]. I still analyse these things. But I'm feeling good, so on my side there is no problem. I'm able to compete with the best guys.”
For Grigor Dimitrov, another former Wimbledon semi-finalist back in London after claiming a couple of titles in the first half of 2017, Queen’s offers the chance to make up for lost time. The 2014 champion fell in his first match in Stuttgart last week, but looked far more sure-footed in west London, racing to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Ryan Harrison in just 54 minutes with some quick-fire attacking tennis – a pace of play he hopes to maintain at the All England Club.
“I was pushing myself to just stay in the moment, stay in the present, return every ball that I can, make sure that I take the right decision, trying to serve as best I can and making sure that I keep that focus throughout the whole time,” said No.6 seed Dimitrov, glad to be back to winning ways after the disappointment of his ‘wasted tournament’ in Germany.
“Now we are playing best of three, but in two weeks' time we are going to be playing best of five, so you need to push yourself to get over that extra hurdle. Even if it's in straight sets, you still need to push yourself to have that mentality that you have done the work, you push yourself for two, three sets. Overall it's just a good performance for me today.”
Tomas Berdych, the No.7 seed, eased through to the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Steve Darcis, but reigning Wimbledon junior champion Denis Shapovalov stunned British No.2 Kyle Edmund in the day’s last match on centre court. The 18-year-old, a qualifier at Queen’s, beat the world No.47 in three sets, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.
Slips on grass are just part of the game, as Shapovalov demonstrated during the first-set tiebreak against Edmund. Lining up a regulation backhand, the 18-year-old’s foot slipped and he shovelled the ball back while on one knee. Edmund closed in on the net after firing back the short ball, only for Shapovalov to smoke a backhand down the line for a winner.
Despite his disappointment, Nick Kyrgios ended his post-match press conference with a cheeky smile on his face – and confirmed that, one way or another, he’s heading to Wimbledon. Asked what he planned to do with himself over the next few days, he didn’t miss a beat in referencing one of the many pubs in the area.
“Dog and Fox.”