WIMBLEDON, England – Three of tennis’ marquee players cruised down the road in first-round matches at Wimbledon on Tuesday, and Rafael Nadal, among the brightest stars of all, traveled a bumpy road.
That is relatively speaking.
Nadal lost a set. The others — Roger Federer of Switzerland, Serena Williams of the United States and Maria Sharapova of Russia — barely lost a game.
Nadal has struggled here the last two years, and he entered with a three-match losing streak on grass surfaces. So when the Spaniard dropped the first set on Centre Court to Slovakian left-hander Martin Klizan, antennas went up.
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But Nadal set his jaw, pumped his fist a lot and won the next three sets in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory.
“It was a positive match for me,” Nadal said. “First thing, because I won. That’s the most important thing.”
It was the same for Federer, Williams and Sharapova on the tournament’s second day.
No matter how big a name you are, just getting that first-rounder out of the way makes it a good day.
Federer barely had to breathe heavily in his 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 rout of Italian Paolo Lorenzi.
“I got the break, I think, in all three sets in the return game,” Federer said. “I was always up in the score…. It’s easier to play that way.”
Williams was on Centre Court just long enough to get her racket strings stretched in her 6-1, 6-2 victory over fellow American Anna Tatishvili.
“I like the grass,” Williams said. “There is so much history here. I like that. I like that everybody wears white.”
Sharapova was even quicker than Williams. Fresh from her French Open title, her second at Roland Garros, she dispatched Samantha Murray of England 6-1, 6-0.
“As the match progressed, I got more comfortable,” Sharapova said.
All four of these superstars have dealt with recent demons at Wimbledon.
Nadal went out in the second round here two years ago and in the first round last year to Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, his next opponent.
But he also has won this tournament twice, in 2008 and ’10, and has been in three other finals.
Federer has won here seven times but was upset in the second round last year. This year, he has added former player Stefan Edberg to his support team and that prompted questions about the possibility of more serving-and-volleying, which was Edberg’s style.
“I think it could be that little extra piece to the puzzle that could bring me through … an extra option,” Federer said.
Williams, who has won five Wimbledon titles, went out to Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the fourth round last year.
Sharapova, who won her Wimbledon title 10 years ago as a 17-year-old, also had a bad slip here last year, losing in the second round.