Nadal, Russell get Wimbledon under way

2011-06-20 11:12

LONDON – Wimbledon was bathed in warm sunshine as Rafa Nadal and Michael Russell, two players from opposite ends of the tennis spectrum, prepared to open proceedings on Centre Court today.

The leafy south west London club’s gates opened for the first day’s action under clear skies although rain was forecast later which could mean Nadal begins his title defence under the Centre Court roof.

The Spaniard, who re-charged his batteries with some golf back home in Majorca after claiming his sixth French Open title to take his career grand slam haul to 10, has not lost at Wimbledon since the 2007 final against Roger Federer.

Russell, a 33-year-old journeyman from Houston, Texas, has only ever managed one win on the lawns and has never claimed a Tour title. He has never beaten a top-10 player.

However, the mystique of the world’s most famous tournament has grown over the decades with extraordinary tales of the unexpected and Nadal will hope his progress through the opening rounds is smooth Andy Murray, who is still waiting for his first major title, has the added burden of trying to end Britain’s 75-year wait for a men’s singles champion at a grand slam.

He will be full of confidence as he follows Nadal on to Centre Court to face Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver.

Murray, winner at Queen’s Club last week, is a potential semi-final opponent for Nadal who prevailed when they met at that stage last year.

Sandwiched in between is last year’s French Open champion Francesca Schiavone from Italy who takes on a familiar name at Wimbledon, Jelena Dokic of Australia.

In 1999 a 16-year-old Dokic caused one of Wimbledon’s greatest upsets when she beat then world number one Martina Hingis in the first round.

Should Russell, who has never won a tour title, come out on top today, however, it would make Dokic’s feat look fairly routine and send shockwaves around the sport.

Also in action are three-times runner-up Andy Roddick against Andreas Beck and fellow American and five-times champion Venus Williams who tackles Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan.

With showers expected throughout the first week, Centre Court’s roof could get its first serious test since it was completed in time for the 2009 championships – since when it has been largely redundant.

The expected 40 000 spectators flocking into the grounds will again enjoy the traditions that make Wimbledon such a highlight in the world sporting calendar.

They will also be dazzled by the All England Club’s ability to move with the times and the 2011 championships will begin with a brand new showcourt.

The players are here, the scene is set, the strawberries are being unwrapped. Let the action begin.

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