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Alcaraz, Rybakina sizzle early

‘I was pretty nervous, and I can’t even hide it.’

CARLOS Alcaraz kicks off his Wimbledon bid on a high note following a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 win over Jeremy Chardy of France. | SEBASTIEN BOZON/agence france-presse

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and defending women’s champion Elena Rybakina got their Wimbledon bids off to winning starts on Tuesday as torrential rain brought havoc to the All England Club schedule.

Only an hour’s play was possible on the outside courts, which meant 69 of the planned 77 matches were unable to be completed.

Just eight matches took place on the covered Court One and Center Court.

Alcaraz raced through the first set against French veteran Jeremy Chardy in just 22 minutes before breaking twice in the second set.

Chardy, who had previously announced that Wimbledon would be the final tournament of his career, drew first blood in the third set to lead 4-2, but Alcaraz hit back strongly, sealing a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 win with an ace.

“I like to play battles and I am really happy to have played at a great level, both of us, in the third set,” the Spaniard said.

“I am really happy to get through this first round.”

The US Open champion is seen as one of the few credible threats to Novak Djokovic, who is targeting an eighth Wimbledon crown to match Roger Federer’s men’s record.

Wimbledon’s Center Court paid tribute to Swiss great Federer before the start of play as he returned to the scene of some of his greatest triumphs.

The crowd gave Federer, who retired in September, a prolonged standing ovation interspersed with cheers as he entered the royal box, which threatened to upstage the first match of the championship for Rybakina.

The Kazakh third seed was caught cold in the opening set, double-faulting on her first point on the way to losing her first service game to unseeded American Shelby Rogers but she rallied strongly to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

“It was really tough for me today,” Rybakina said.

“I was pretty nervous, and I can’t even hide it.”

“The double fault said it all at the beginning of the match. I’m really pleased to get to another round.”

Two-time champion Andy Murray eased past fellow Briton Ryan Peniston in straight sets.

Former world No. 1 Murray, who won his first Wimbledon title in 2013 before adding a second three years later, came through 6-3, 6-0, 6-1.

Now ranked at 40, and playing with a metal hip, the 36-year-old had too much power and finesse for wildcard Peniston, the world No. 268.

“It’s amazing to be back on Centre Court again,” Murray said.

“I started off quite nervously, I was a little bit tentative but once I got a break I played some good stuff. There were good signs.”

World No. 2 and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka powered into the second round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Panna Udvardy of Hungary, taking full advantage of playing under the Center Court roof.

Sabalenka reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2022 but was banned in 2022 along with all Belarusian and Russian players due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Ons Jabeur, the 2022 runner-up, cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win against Poland’s Magdalena Frech.

Wimbledon chiefs, meanwhile, downplayed concerns over dampness on Centre Court despite a long delay during Djokovic’s first round match against Pedro Cachin on Monday.

Operations director Michelle Dite said there was more moisture in the grass than expected but organizers were not planning to do anything different on Tuesday.

“There was nothing strange,” she said.

“It was a set of circumstances with the environmental control in the bowl.”

“There is nothing that’s broken. There is nothing that means we’re not confident in playing today.”

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