Wimbledon: With hand surgeon in stands, Petra Kvitova wins in return

on Jul4

The surgeon who repaired Petra Kvitova’s left hand was in the Centre Court stands to watch her win in Wimbledon’s first round on Monday.

“It was very nice that he sat in the box for my match. It was a special one,” Kvitova said. “I’m really glad that he took the invitation. He came with his wife to support me here.”

How fitting.

Kvitova was a bit overwhelmed by the whole scene as she returned to the site of her two Grand Slam titles, a little more than six months after being cut by a knife-wielding intruder at her home in the Czech Republic. Still unable to clench her hand for celebratory fist pumps or grip her racket fully, Kvitova came back to the All England Club and beat Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-4.

All five fingers on the lefty’s racket-swinging hand were injured in the late December attack. At the time, Kvitova was told there was a possibility she might not play tennis again.

Scars on that hand serve as a reminder of what happened, and she thinks the cream that she often rubs on her hands during changeovers — something she’s long done, even before the stabbing — might help her improve her grip strength.

She first returned to practice a little before the French Open, then began her competitive comeback in Paris in late May. A tournament title came next, on grass courts at Birmingham, England, in June.

Those were both important milestones, to be sure.

It was still a thrill to play once again at Wimbledon, where she won the championship in 2011 and 2014.

“It was beautiful to be back on the court, playing my game, on the beautiful Centre Court, of course,” the 11th-seeded Kvitova said. “I couldn’t wish (for) more.”

After winning Birmingham, she pulled out of a tuneup tournament at Eastbourne, citing an abdominal injury she thinks was a result of having the unwanted time off to begin the season.

She acknowledged dealing with some jitters at the outset against Larsson, a Swede who is ranked 53rd. That might have led to three early double-faults.

But Kvitova quickly found her game and was on her way. And she noticed that the crowd, clearly familiar with what she went through not that long ago, cheered even more loudly than usual for her.

She’s popular among British bookmakers, too: Some have made her the favorite to take home the trophy in two weeks’ time.

Venus Williams wins opening match

Venus Williams won her first tennis match since being sued by the estate of a Florida man who died after a car crash police say she caused.

The 10th-seeded Williams beat Elise Mertens 7-6 (7), 6-4 Monday in the first round at Wimbledon, a tournament the American has won five times.

Last week, Williams was sued by the estate of a Florida man who died 13 days after a car crash. The lawsuit came one day after Palm Beach Gardens police released a report saying Williams caused the June 9 crash.

On No. 1 Court, Williams had to wait through a 33-minute rain delay to win her opening match. She had two match points before the rain came. Play was stopped with Williams leading 5-3 and at 40-40 in the second set.

When play resumed, Mertens held serve to make it 5-4, but Williams served out the match.

Second-seeded Simona Halep and No. 17 Madison Keys also won Monday. Halep, who lost in this year’s French Open final, beat Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 6-4, 6-1. Keys defeated Nao Hibino of Japan 6-4, 6-2.

Keys, who is right-handed, was playing for the first time since having a second surgery on her left wrist.

“It’s obviously not perfect,” Keys said. “I haven’t been able to do the repetitions that ideally I would have wanted to do, but it feels fine. Doesn’t hurt anymore. That’s really all I care about.”

In the men’s draw, Nick Kyrgios retired from his first-round match after losing the first two sets.

The 20th-seeded Australian was trailing Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-3, 6-4 when he called for a trainer to work on his left hip. He then decided to stop the match.

Kyrgios also retired with an injury from his first-round match at Queen’s, a Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

“I kind of knew I was in trouble. I have been feeling my hip ever since I fell over at Queen’s. Never got it right,” Kyrgios said. “I was doing everything I could to help it, but just not enough time.”

Two-time semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also reached the second round. The 12th-seeded Frenchman beat Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Ninth-seeded Kei Nishikori and 24th-seeded Sam Querrey also advanced.

Nagging hip injury doesn’t slow Murray at Wimbledon

Neither a nagging injury to his left hip nor a brief rain delay seemed to pose any challenge to Andy Murray.

The top-seeded Murray opened the defense of his Wimbledon title with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan on Monday in the opening round.

Murray, whose only competitive grass-court appearance was a first-round loss at Queen’s last month, showed no effects from an injury that caused him to call off two exhibition matches last week.

Although the 134th-ranked Bublik’s eccentric style of play, built on drop shots and slices, tested Murray’s mobility, he countered with his defensive game and took advantage of his opponent’s errors.

The 20-year-old Bublik finished with 35 unforced errors to Murray’s 10 and had 12 double-faults.

“My hip felt good,” Murray said. “It’s a little bit sore, but I was moving really good on the court today. You know, that’s the most important thing. If you’re in a little bit of pain, but you can still run as you normally do, that doesn’t affect how you play. It’s when it’s affecting your movement and some of the shots that you play when it becomes a problem. Today, you know, certainly wasn’t the case at all.”

The victory included a 33-minute rain delay. Murray was leading Bublik by two sets and entering the third game of the third set when play was suspended.

Even Bublik, a lucky loser in qualifying who was playing in his seventh tour-level match, seemed resigned to his fate. He joked to Murray during the delay that they were going to stand around for an hour only to play 15 more minutes.

“He’s physically incredible,” Bublik said. “If he was struggling with injury and he’s running like this, imagine how he’s going to play when he has no problem.”

Murray was ready for Bublik’s unorthodox style from the start. He answered his opponent’s drop shot with one of his own to pick up a point in the first game of the first set. And later, he won the first game of the second set by attacking the net with a sharp forehand volley.

He even managed to return Bublik’s dive volley in the seventh game of the third set, drilling it back to force break point, which he also won, as his opponent struggled to get back to his feet.

Up next for Murray is Dustin Brown, a German who came from behind to defeat Joao Sousa in four sets in the first round and has a similar, yet more structured, game as Bublik.

That should be fine for Murray, who handled the first test of the hip well enough.

“I moved well,” Murray said. “So yeah, for a first match, considering how I was feeling five, six days ago, it was really positive.”

With bad knee, 3-time major champ Wawrinka out

So much for the idea that Stan Wawrinka might be able to complete a career Grand Slam at Wimbledon this year.

Didn’t even make it out of the first round.

An owner of one championship from each of the other three major tournaments, and the French Open runner-up just three weeks ago, Wawrinka was bothered by his left knee and lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to Daniil Medvedev at Centre Court in the first round at the All England Club on Monday.

Wawrinka was seeded No. 5 and ranked No. 3. He iced his knee during changeovers and never was able to summon his best tennis.

“Apparently grass is not the best surface for my knee,” Wawrinka said with a grin. “I need to figure it out exactly, what’s the problem now, what I’m going to do, and come back on the tennis court when I (can play) without any pain.”

He said his knee has been a problem off and on this season, including at the Australian Open in January, when he made a run to the semifinals.

Wawrinka said he was a bit hesitant about even playing at Wimbledon, but he thought the knee seemed better during recent practices.

He had no answers when asked what comes next, including how much time he might need to take off.

“What’s sure is that I’m going to take the time I need to feel ready again physically,” the 32-year-old from Switzerland said.

Wawrinka won the Australian Open in 2014, the French Open in 2015 and the U.S. Open in 2016. But he never has been able to excel at the All England Club, where his best showing is getting to the quarterfinals and his career record is now 18-13.

This was Wawrinka’s sixth defeat in the first round at Wimbledon.

And just how big a victory was this for Medvedev, a 21-year-old Russian who is ranked 49th?

He dropped to his knees and kissed the Centre Court turf afterward.

This was the first time he had won a Grand Slam match. A year ago at Wimbledon, Medvedev lost in the first round of qualifying.

“So even, I guess, if I didn’t beat Stan, it would be one of the biggest wins in my life. My first top-10 win. I have no words to describe this,” Medvedev said. “I guess this memory will be with me forever.”

Azarenka gets going after slow start

When Victoria Azarenka got going, she got going good.

The two-time Australian Open champion was playing for only the third time since giving birth in December, and despite a slow beginning, she managed to beat CiCi Bellis 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 Monday in the first round at Wimbledon.

“It was really a kind of nervous start for me,” the unseeded Belarussian said. “I was not finding my range, not really moving the way I like to move and the way I have been practicing, actually.”

The shaky start translated into a quick 4-0 deficit on No. 1 Court for the former No. 1 player in the world. But the 27-year-old Azarenka broke back to 4-1, and that was beginning of the turnaround.

“I definitely feel like I started to create something for myself,” Azarenka said. “I started to create the points. I started to find my range better. I started to see the point better and move better.”

Azarenka is no stranger to Wimbledon, even though she missed last year’s tournament because of injury and hasn’t played at a Grand Slam event since the 2016 French Open. She is a two-time semifinalist at the All England Club, making it that far in 2011 and 2012 — losing to eventual champions Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams. And besides her Australian Open titles in ‘12 and ‘13, she reached two finals at the U.S. Open, losing both times to Williams those same two years.

In the final set on Monday, she started to get back to her best, losing only five points in the opening four games of the decider. She got broken in the fifth game, but she broke back and then served it out for a spot in the second round.

“I think I became a little bit too defensive,” said Bellis, an 18-year-old American who was making her debut in the women’s tournament at Wimbledon. “Even if I hit slightly short, she would really take advantage of the ball. I feel like I had to really make every shot perfect.”

Azarenka will next face Elena Vesnina on Wednesday. The 15th-seeded Russian, who beat Anna Blinkova 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year.

“So obviously grass is very comfortable surface for her,” Azarenka said. “I’m excited to play against her. She’s a great player and always can bring her `A’ game.”

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