As Justine Henin-Hardenne's 11th and final double fault slapped the net cord and deflected to the wrong box, her words from a few days ago...
WIMBLEDON, England — As Justine Henin-Hardenne’s 11th and final double fault slapped the net cord and deflected to the wrong box, her words from a few days ago came tumbling back to underscore the embarrassment of this defeat.
“My serve will be a key,” she told reporters on Saturday as she happily accepted her role as one of the favored two or three players at Wimbledon. “I’m serving much better than two years ago.”
She was certainly serving harder yesterday in her opening match against sturdy, heavy-hitting Greek player Eleni Daniilidou, once ringing up 118 mph on the speed display. But there was very little accuracy and very little consistency in her game, so shockingly, the French Open champion and No. 7 seed was drummed out of the tournament, along with her 24-match winning streak in a 7-6 (10-8), 2-6, 7-5 loss.
“I never felt the good rhythm and I missed some opportunities in the third set,” Henin-Hardenne said. “It’s very hard to win when you play like this.”
Not everyone believed she could become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1996 to make the radical shift from clay to grass and win both the French and Wimbledon in the same year.
But who suspected she would be out this early and with such a shabby display of serving — only 48 percent of first serves in, three aces, 11 double faults and only 33 percent conversion on her second serves. Two of those double-faults came in the final game, which she lost at love.
Otherwise, it was a second straight magnificent day with plenty of high drama on the courts:
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• Serena Williams, who had played only one match in two months, had to rally to defeat her good friend Angela Haynes 6-7 (12-14), 6-4, 6-2. Williams was erratic and for a while was in danger of losing to a player who hadn’t won a main-draw match in her past eight tournaments.
• Brit Tim Henman was down two sets to love to Jarkko Nieminen, the swift Finn who took down Andre Agassi in the first round at the French, but rallied to win.
• In a spectacular, record-setting performance, Daniele Bracciali of Italy defeated Ivo Karlovic with a 12-10 fifth set, the two men combining for 82 aces — 51 by the 6-foot-10 Croatian.
Karlovic’s loss surely will give some relief to No. 2 seed Andy Roddick, who was expecting to play him in the second round. Instead, he draws Bracciali, whose serve won’t come out of a tree, as Roddick said, but will be hard to deal with as well.
Roddick reached the second round by defeating Jiri Vanek 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, taking complete control with a critical stab volley at 5-4 in the tiebreak.
Also advancing to the second round: No. 4 Rafael Nadal, the French Open champion who defeated Vince Spadea, No. 12 Thomas Johansson, No. 14 Radek Stepanek and No. 15 Guillermo Coria.
On the women’s side, defending champion and No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova moved easily into the second round with No. 8 Nadia Petrova, No. 11 Vera Zvonareva, No. 12 Mary Pierce, No. 14 Venus Williams and No. 16 Nathalie Dechy.
Henin-Hardenne’s loss opens up the bottom half of the draw for Serena Williams, but she still must find a groove in the first three rounds.
“I felt kind of rusty out there,” she admitted. “But toward the end, as the match went on, I got a little bit better with everything.”
She had to. She was outhit by the left-handed Haynes, and rarely does one see Williams put as much air under the ball as she did in the opening set, an indication of a lack of confidence in her groundstrokes.
On the men’s side, it was a long day for Roddick, who spent an hour after his match keeping tabs on Bracciali and Karlovic. He had beaten Karlovic in two tiebreak sets in the final at Queens Club on June 13, but wasn’t looking forward to playing him again.
Roddick wasn’t consistently spectacular against the clever Vanek, but he got done what he wanted to get done. He compiled 11 break-point opportunities and cashed in six. He faced only one break point — which he yielded — and he played big on the crucial points.