Wimbledon: Day 1 Preview
Published June 22, 2009 09:19
LONDON, UK - Two former champions, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, headline the opening day's play at The Championships - along with a brand new retractable roof, which hopefully won't be called to action. But the attention of British fans will settle on Laura Robson, the 15-year-old who makes her Grand Slam debut against Daniela Hantuchova, as the youngest player to contest Wimbledon since Martina Hingis in 1995.
[Q] Neuza Silva (POR) vs.  Serena Williams (USA)
Whether or not Serena really considers herself the real No.1 after an ordinary clay court season, doesn't matter. Just like her sister Venus, the younger Williams sibling has always shown up - in every sense of the term - at Wimbledon, and her powerful game is obviously perfectly suited to the surface. On paper this match looks like it should be a relatively leisurely opportunity for the American to check out the new surroundings on Centre Court, for qualifier Silva is playing her first Grand Slam main draw match. Still, the 26-year-old, who boasts a strong forehand and nifty backhand slice, just like her idol Steffi Graf, will be determined to put on a good show. After all, she's the first player from Portugal to ever grace the most hallowed turf in tennis, and she won't want to wake up from the dream.
 Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. Viktoriya Kutuzova (UKR)
Wimbledon champion in 2004, Sharapova has been awarded a discretionary seeding by the event's organizers, and it's hard to argue with a decision that protects the other seeds as much as the Russian herself. Since returning from her shoulder injury the 22-year-old has already proven she has lost none of her formidable will to win; in fact, if anything she has played more aggressively than ever. A semifinal effort on the grass at Birmingham and quarterfinal runs at Warsaw and Roland Garros were almost superhuman feats under the circumstances, and she won't expect anything else from herself this fortnight. Kutuzova has worked her way through qualifying so has matches under her belt, but it will be a tough day at the office for the young Ukrainian.
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) vs. [WC] Laura Robson (GBR)
Last week, as she stole the first set from Safina 61 at 's-Hertogenbosch, Hantuchova reminded that when she is on song she as good as anyone. Sometimes tension gets in the way of greater things, though, and this match-up would have been a potential nightmare for any of the marquee players. Robson won the hearts of the British nation when she captured the junior title here 12 months ago, and all of the older competitors she has played since then have commented on her remarkable talent. The young lefty has never faced an opponent of Hantuchova's caliber though, and it has to be said that the 26-year-old Slovak has pulled out some ding-dong wins over local favorites this year, namely Casey Dellacqua at the Australian Open and Alizé Cornet at Fed Cup.
Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) vs.  Elena Dementieva (RUS)
Kudryavtseva has no qualms about upsetting more fancied compatriots at Grand Slams - last year she beat Sharapova in the second round here at Wimbledon, and afterwards admitted to journalists that there was no love lost. The 20-year-old hasn't had the best of seasons so far, but then lately neither has Dementieva, whose form has dipped in the past couple of months after a blistering swing Down Under. Having reached the semifinals here for the first time last year, the 27-year-old will want to reassert her claims to the top ranking - and that elusive Grand Slam title. As long as she serves well, she should have too much class for her compatriot. Nerves could be a factor though, and Kudryavtseva is the one with nothing to lose.
More to watch…
On Court 3, eighth seed Victoria Azarenka kicks off her campaign against 2006 quarterfinalist Severine Bremond, while No.7 seed Vera Zvonareva plays British wildcard Georgie Stoop on the last match on Court 4. Marion Bartoli, the runner-up here in 2007 and seeded 12th this year, tackles Chan Yung-Jan on Court 18. Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn, straight from her successful title defense at the Ordina Open, plays Spanish qualifier Arantxa Parra Santonja on Court 5 and 2008 semifinalist Zheng Jie, who has risen to the 16th seeding after a fine 12 months, takes on Germany's Kristina Barrois on Court 7. Tenth seed Nadia Petrova plays Anastasiya Yakimova; Eastbourne finalist Virginie Razzano, the No.26 seed, faces Tamira Paszek; and No.14 seed Dominika Cibulkova will be aiming to win her first match on grass when she lines up against France's Julie Coin.