LONDON, June 23 – Roger Federer's bid for a record 15th Grand Slam title got underway in familiar fashion as the five-times champion settled into Wimbledon's new-look centre court with a straight sets demolition of Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun.
Federer, the men’s favourite in the absence of injured champion Rafael Nadal, recovered from going a break down early in the first set to win 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 and set up a second round meeting with Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who had a similarly straightforward win over Argentina’s Agustin Calleri.
Fine, dry conditions ensured there was no need of the new retractable roof that has been installed above Wimbledon’s most famous court as part of an 80-million-pound upgrade.
Federer also went largely untested and his post-match comments betrayed his confidence that he is destined for his seventh consecutive final.
"It is good to get the first match out of the way and get into the tournament," the Swiss said. "Once you are in, things become a little easier because your mind is right in the tournament."
Novak Djokovic, the man seeded to meet Federer in the semi-finals, endured a much more testing afternoon. The Serb was forced to battle for three and a half hours to complete a 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/1), 6-2, 6-4 win over France’s Julien Benneteau.
Djokovic next faces German qualifier Simon Gruel but the tournament is over for James Blake, the 17th seed, and Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez, the 21st seed who lost in five sets to Slovakian Karol Beck.
Blake’s demise was the more surprising. The American had arrived here with high hopes after finishing as runner-up to Andy Murray at Queen’s but he could not reproduce that form here and was comfortably beaten 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) by journeyman Italian Andreas Seppi.
"After Queen’s I really thought I a great chance to do very well," Blake admitted. "It’s been my worst slam and I just don’t understand why."
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the French ninth seed who could present Federer’s first real threat if both men advance to the last eight, had to battle hard to overcome Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/5).
Robin Soderling, Nadal’s conqueror at the French Open, also went through, the 13th seed accounting for Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-1, 6-2.
There were no major upsets in the women’s draw with Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova all easing through, although Sharapova was briefly in trouble when she trailed 1-4 and 3-5 in the first set to Ukrainian qualifier Viktoriya Kutuzova.
The Russian recovered however to win 7-5, 6-4 and set up a second round meeting with Argentina’s Gisela Dulko, one of the few women who can compete with her in the glamour stakes.
Serena Williams, who could face Sharapova at the quarter-final stage, swept Portugal Neuza Silva aside 6-1, 7-5 and had an ominous warning for her rivals.
"I thought I could have played a ton better, especially on key points," said the American. "Hopefully as the tournament goes on and progresses, I’ll get there."
There was disappointment for the home supporters when 15-year-old Laura Robson, last year’s junior champion, led by a set and a break before going down to former Daniela Hantuchova, a former world number five.
Hantuchova now faces last year’s surprise semi-finalist Zheng Jie, who battled to a 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/4) victory over Kristina Barrois of Germany.
Also into the second round are India’s Sania Mirza, who secured a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win over big-hitting German Anna-Lena Groenefeld, and Michelle Larcher de Brito, the 16-year-old Portuguese player whose noisy grunting caused controversy at the French Open.
Larcher de Brito was relatively muted during a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Klara Zakopalova but insisted she would not hesitate to turn up the volume as the going gets tougher.
"Nobody can tell me to stop grunting," she insisted. "If they have to fine me, go ahead, because I’d rather get fined than lose a match because I had to stop grunting."