TENNIS: Wimbledon begins with an upset
LONDON — It didn’t take long for Wimbledon to produce its first upset on the opening day of the tournament.
Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig had 38 winners and eliminated fifth-seeded Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-2 today in the first match on Court 18 of the grass-court Grand Slam.
Puig, 19, playing her first grass-court tournament as a pro, outplayed the Italian veteran with her hard-hitting baseline game.
Errani was runner-up at last year’s French Open and had reached at least the semifinals of three of the last five Grand Slams. But on the slick grass at the All England club, she had only 13 winners and was broken four times.
Puig squandered five match points before hitting a forehand winner past Errani to close out the match. The Puerto Rican dropped her racket to the turf and covered her face in her hands.
Errani withdrew from last week’s grass-court warmup at Eastbourne with a leg injury, but showed no signs of any physical problems during the match.
It’s the third time a top-5 women’s seeded player has lost in the first round at Wimbledon since 2001. The others were Martina Hingis in 2000 and Francesca Schiavone in 2010.
The loss marked another humbling Wimbledon exit for Errani.
Last year, the Italian went an entire set without winning a point in losing 6-0, 6-4 in the third round to Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan. Shvedova was the first player in a Grand Slam to achieve a so-called “golden set” by winning 24 straight points.
In another women’s match, former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic of Serbia advanced to the second round with a 7-6 (1), 6-0 win over qualifier Virginie Razzano of France.
The 12th-seeded Ivanovic, a semifinalist here in 2007, swept through the second set in 22 minutes, finishing the match with her sixth ace.
The weather was cloudy but dry for the beginning of the two-week championships.
Defending champion Roger Federer was opening his bid for his eight Wimbledon title with the first match on Centre Court against Victor Hanescu of Romania. It was 10 years ago that Federer won his first Wimbledon championship.
Also scheduled on Centre Court were former women’s champion Maria Sharapova facing Kristina Mladenovic of France, and No. 2-seeded Andy Murray playing Benjamin Becker of Germany.
Murray, who lost to Federer in last year’s final, beat the Swiss star a month later for the Olympic gold medal and won his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open. He is bidding again to become the first British player to win the men’s Wimbledon trophy since Fred Perry in 1936.
Two-time champion Rafael Nadal, seeded No. 5 this year, was paired against Steve Darcis of Belgium on Court No. 1. Nadal is coming off his eighth victory at the French Open.
Defending women’s champion Serena Williams plays Tuesday.
The next time Williams and Sharapova meet, it could be in the final.
“I think it’s great for women’s tennis when we play each other,” Williams said.
Until then, fans and non-fans alike can keep picking apart the unexpected trade of verbal jousts between two of the sport’s biggest stars — a back-and-forth that has turned the lead-up to Wimbledon into something much more than simple tennis talk.
The latest chapter came on the eve of the tournament. Trying to set aside a number of awkward outcomes from a Rolling Stone profile of her posted online last week, Williams used her pre-tournament news conference Sunday to express her apologies.
• For comments that put both her and Sharapova’s love lives on center stage.
• For remarks she made about the 16-year-old victim in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case.
• And, it seemed, every bit as much for letting the author of that story into her private world, thus turning the buildup to Wimbledon into a festival of dirty laundry that has the headline writers for the London tabloids drooling. (“This time it’s personal” and “I’m sorry, Maria!” were among the lines used.)
“It definitely hasn’t been easy,” the No. 1-ranked Williams said about the stir created by the magazine’s profile. “And I feel like I really wanted to say: I apologize for everything that was said in that article.”
Earlier in the week, Williams had issued a statement expressing regret for remarks about the 16-year-old victim in the Steubenville case. On Sunday, she said she and the family “came to a wonderful understanding, and we’re constantly in contact.”