Greetings one and all to sunny SW19, which I am watching from sunny BN3. Which I’m hoping will be near enough to be definitive. It’s the opening Monday at Wimbledon which means the reigning men’s champion opens up proceedings on Centre Court. It also means that the courts are all still nice and green and the draw is still wide open. This time next week, the only remaining active players in the tournament will look like the secret identities of superheroes. On opening day, we are presented with a motley smorgasbord of white clad combatants: old ones, fat ones, ugly ones, teeny-tiny ones, young ones, the bald and the hopeless.
12:55 There’s none of that shambles in evidence on Centre Court, where the world number 1 is about to open his campaign against Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany. Kohlschreiber has been a top-16 player and is currently the world number 33. In short, no mug.
12:58 Novak Djokovic has grown his hair slightly. He of the thickest hair known to human science is now eschewing the just-shorn razor-sharp atomic fuzz buzzcut of yore now has a neatly coiffed side parting. He’s fooling no-one, his hair still looks like it was carved from a single block of wood. You could use it to arrange flowers.
13:01 They are on court and, by gum, ready to play some tennis.
13:03 45% of the voters in the BBC online survey think Andy Murray will win Wimbledon this year, with Djokovic second on 34%. This means that 45% of people could be disappointed. Or 55% of people will. Or 78% will. It’s difficult to know, fully. Almost as if it makes no difference.
13:05 Novak Djokovic has only lost 3 matches in 2015. One was to Roger Federer in Dubai, one was the French Open final to Stan Wawrinka and the other was a game of Cluedo to his wife. And I rather fancy that he took a dive in that one.
13:07 The BBC coverage is displaying the “R” logo, indicative of pre-recorded footage shown during rain delays. With the forecast heatwave over the next couple of weeks, it’s quite possible that the BBC graphics department are just making the most of all of their toys. Or one of them has put their sausage down on a button by mistake.
13:09 Play is under way. Djokovic starts with an ace. Just 503 more of those and he’ll retain his title.
13:11 Play is suspended, albeit briefly, so that a ball boy can chase a bird off of the court. The bird, which will almost certainly now have its own Twitter account, @CentreCourtBird, was perhaps trying to sit on one of the balls to make it hatch. But what would hatch out of a tennis ball? A turkey with Billie Jean King’s face could be the answer.
13:14 Billie Jean Wing.
13:16 Boris Pecker.
13:17 The score on Centre is Djokovic *2-0 Kohlschreiber, the German being broken in his first service game, something bound to make him feel unwell.
13:20 News from the other courts: Britain’s Liam Broady leads Marinko Matisevic of Australia 3-0 in the third set on 18, which is good for him as he has already lost the first two sets 5-7, 4-6. Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic is on the cusp of being two sets behind Spain’s Marcel Granollers. On Court 1, Serena Williams has made a slow start against the Russian debutant Margarita Gasparayan.
13:26 Philipp Kohlschreiber has happily proved my assessment of him correct by immediately breaking Djokovic’s service back. He pushes on with a comfortable hold in his next service game. 2-2.
13:28 The 24th seed in the women’s draw, Flavia Pennetta, is seriously up against it in her match with Zarina Diyas of Kazhakstan, trailing 3-6, 6-2, 4-5. Meanwhile, Margarita Gasparayan continues to confound expectations on Court 1, now heading Serena Williams 3-1.
13:32 The bird, having evaded every attempt to make it desist – including the intervention of watching military personnel – is now running the show out on Centre Court. The players have adapted to this new regime by perching on a twig during each change of ends.
13:35 A seed has fallen, Zarina Diyas winning her third set 6-4 against Flavia Pennetta who will now presumably be off to Nandos.
13:37 Still nip, tuck and beak on Centre, where Kohlschreiber seems to be getting under the defending champion’s skin with his stubborn refusal to cease hitting the ball back into play. Djokovic has now made 4 unforced errors in the first set, which is a large number of errors for Djokovic to make in a week, rather than just half an hour.
13:40 In the men’s draw, seeds keep seeding: Marin Cilic, David Goffin and last year’s surprise package Nick Krygios all coming through their matches without dropping a set. Novak Djokovic wins his service game to lead 4-3 but had to fight back from 15-40 down to do it. Kohlschreiber clearly has his eye in and would otherwise have probably fancied his chances to make it through to the second week. In short, he’s got to be a bit pissed off, surely. The bird has not been seen or heard for a few minutes now.
13:45 Kohlschreiber means “cabbage writer” in German, presumably making Philipp one of the most fun players on the ATP World Tour to get an autograph from. No bird.
13:48 An excited murmur around Centre Court can only mean one thing, which is that the bird has returned. This is bad news for Novak Djokovic, who is still making heavy weather of the first set here and don’t need no feather-ass punk bird all up in his grill. It’s Djokovic 5-4* Kohlschreiber.
13:52 Novak Djokovic has assumed full Elmer Fudd duties in the battle against the bird, which tentative estimates put as a blue tit. More as we get it.
13:54 First set to Djokovic, 6-4. Kohlschreiber reached into his bag of tricks and, sadly for him, pulled out a great handful of double faults and unforced errors. It’s tough on Kohlschreiber, who has pretty much hit ball for ball with Djokovic throughout only to be reminded of those small margins that separate the good players and the great.
13:56 In British interest news, on Court 18 Liam Broady has been visited by that great old companion of the home players at Wimbledon, False Hope, winning the third set against Marinko Matosevic 6-3 to trail 2-1 in sets. Now we really know that Wimbledon is under way. It’s also a good time to mention that the second match on Centre Court today features the in-form Joanna Konta’s match with Maria Sharapova. And if anything is going to scare that bird away, it will be her.
14:01 News from Court 1, where no-one at all was particularly shocked to see Serena Williams rally. She has won the first set 6-4, undeterred by the sounds leaking from the nearby Centre Court as a capacity crowd on the world’s most famous tennis court get terribly excited about a bird. This is Gasparayan’s first ever game at the All England club and, additionally, she is yet to win a singles match on the WTA tour.
14:06 Serena is taking zero prisoners on Court 1. If that bird had landed there instead there’s every chance it would now be in nugget form.
14:09 It’s on serve in the second set on Centre Court, Djokovic leading 3-2. His countryman, the bespectacled Janko Tipsarevic has, however, already been sent packing in three sets by Marcel Granollers. The bird now does whatever he pleases during breaks in the play, like a feathery Cliff Richard.
14:21 Serena Williams now leads 4-1 in the second set against Margarita Gasparyan, celebrating each point as though her horse has just won the Epsom Derby. It’s a display of some significantly meaty hitting from both sides of the net. The great white hope Liam Broady, meanwhile, has now won the fourth set to equalise his match with Matosevic. It’s the first time he’s ever played a competitive five set match, so his overall career record in fourth sets is second to none.
14:26 On Centre, it’s Djokovic 5-4* Kohlschreiber and still on serve. Significantly, it’s also quieter. Serena Williams’ grunts and exhortations have been making the dog jump. Wildlife preservation is very much the order of the day on the main show court, of course, where the bird is now making line calls.
14:34 Serena Williams is serenely through in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1. No surprises there but her opponent acquitted herself terribly well on her Wimbledon debut. Next on Court 1 is the much-fancied number 5 seed in the men’s draw, Kei Nishikori of Japan. His opponent is the Italian doubles specialist Simone Bolelli. Obviously, he will be playing on his own today but I’m sure if needs be he could rustle himself up a bird companion. Like Snoopy and Woodstock.
14:35 On Centre, Djokovic again prevails at the most critical moment, winning the second set to lead to sets to love, 6-4, 6-4.
14:40 Either I didn’t notice his beard before, or Liam Broady’s match with Marinko Matosevic has been going on for a couple of months now. It’s on serve in the fifth and final set, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, *2-3 Broady.
14:48 Liam Broady, the wildcard whose life is rapidly becoming a dream, breaks Matosevic’s serve to lead 4-3 in the deciding set. Court 18 maintaining its reputation for being a one-stop shop for first round drama and beards, if not birds, at Wimbledon.
14:53 If Liam Broady’s ambition is to meet Sue Barker, he’s now just a game away from achieving it. He leads 5-3 in the final set, having trailed 2-0 in sets earlier today. Meanwhile, on Centre Court, surely Broady’s spiritual home, Djokovic leads 6-4, 6-4, 3-1 and looks set to be joining the bird in the second round.
14:58 Broady prevails, breaking Matosevic to win 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Broady, who for reasons too stupid and circuitous to detain us here, hasn’t spoken to his dad in three years will at least get to meet John Inverdale. However, there are two sides to every story in tennis, so from the Australian perspective it’s a pretty disappointing result from a comfortable position. On Centre Court, Kohlschreiber has again broken back to equalise in the third set. Novak Djokovic, who has already met both John Inverdale and Sue Barker, looks to be playing this game in the manner of a patient fisherman, waiting for his chances and not worrying about the ones that get away.
15:05 On number 2 court and currently live on BBC2, the 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen are a set-apiece, the winner due to play the winner of the match on Centre Court. Which, I boldly predict, will be Novak Djokovic. Hewitt has a long and distinguished history at Wimbledon and never goes down without a fight, so entertaining tennis is guaranteed. I will not be watching it, however, as no-one else alive aggravates me more than that little spud-faced prick, I hate him.
15:13 True to form, Novak Djokovic waits for the tenth game of the set to make his move. His 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win looks rather more comfortable written down than it was in reality, but Djokovic hasn’t lost to a player from outside of the top 32 in five years and never particularly looked like blotting his copybook today.
15:15 Maria Sharapova is next up on Centre, so earplugs at the ready.
15:20 An interesting editorial point, as Sue Barker insists on pronouncing the given name of Britain’s new tennis hero Liam Broady with equal stress on both syllables, “Lee-am”. I think it is unavoidable to blame Will I. Am for this development. Or perhaps Roland from Grange Hill.
15:24 Joanne Konta and Maria Sharapova are now out on Centre Court and knocking up. Partisanship is something so unbecoming of an institution as august as Twohundredpercent but I sincerely hope that the latter crashes and burns in this match.
15:27 Results are now coming in thick and fast, like 4 a.m. on General Election night. Number 7 seed and former semi-finalist Ana Ivanovic motored through her first round match 6-1, 6-1 against Xu Yifan of China. America’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands is her next opponent. However, the number 9 seed, Spain’s Carla Sanchez-Navarro slumped to a 2-6, 0-6 defeat to the 18-year old Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.
15:35 Maria Sharapova’s form at Wimbledon is fairly sketchy so I’m not surprised to see such a circumspect opening game on her service. Konta had a break point, throwing up the inevitable question: what would happen if every single British player managed to win their first round match at Wimbledon? Mass hysteria from the media, certainly, coupled with a growing sureness that God must be English and a feeling that maybe it’s not such a waste of time and public money showing every match at The Championships and not just the ones with Andy Murray in. Murray, who is the only British player who doesn’t need to appeal to the Almighty in order to win his tennis games under normal circumstances (probably a good thing if the noted advocate of Scottish independence were to discover that God has turned out to be English), starts his campaign tomorrow.
15:53 On Court 2, the Hewitt – Nieminen match rumbles on. It’s 2-1 in sets to Hewitt but Nieminen leads 5-0 in the fourth so we look like we’re going to be going all the way. So far, the longest match of the tournament was played out between Slovakia’s Martin Klizan and Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, Verdasco winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-7(5), 13-11. Nieminen has just broken Hewitt for a third successive time to take the game into a decider.
16:00 Lee-am Broady’s reward for his heroics on Court 18 earlier today: an interview with the BBC’s roving Welshman, Phil Jones. Looks like the much anticipated meeting with Sue Barker won’t come about for a few more rounds yet. This helps to give him incentive to use his result as a jumping off point. Could this be Broady’s year? His second round opponent is the Belgian seed David Goffin, but rest assured, he and Andy Murray are in separate halves of the draw so the dream Murray – Broady final we’ve all been anticipating for the last half an hour is still on. Although James Ward or Kyle Edmund may have something to say about that.
16:06 They’re back under way for the deciding set on Court 2 after an injury time-out for Lleyton Hewitt. The chip having temporarily fallen off his shoulder.
16:08 The atmosphere on Court 2 is the traditional one for Wimbledon when an Australian player is involved. If I were an Australian sportsman, I’d seriously consider losing my matches just to piss that rabble off.
16:32 What’s going on in the tennis, you might wonder? Hewitt and Nieminen are battering seven shades of shit out of one another in typical fashion, aided and abetted by numerous members of the Fanatics (their name, not mine). Five breaks of serve so far in the final set. Jo Konta, on the other hand, is facing an uphill struggle against Sharapova on Centre, trailing 2-6, *1-4. Kei Nishikori and Simone Bolelli have a set each on number 1.
16:38 Lleyton Hewitt’s loyal army of preposterously annoying supporters would possibly be better employed out on Court 16, where Bernard Tomic, the 27th seed, is having to battle back in his match with Jan-Lennard Struff. Struff currently leads 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-5.
16:41 I always forget that The All England Club has a Court 19. Nineteen! It might sound like the sort of court that Harry Potter would be playing on but they all count for the championships. Just under way there are Richel Hogenkamp (Netherlands) and Wang Qiang of China, proud owner of perhaps the best name of all 256 competitors in this year’s singles competition. Although America’s Jack Sock provides stern opposition. His first round opponent, in both the singles and the men’s doubles, is Australia’s Sam Groth, owner of the fastest ever recorded serve and provider of a Groth v. Sock namepocalypse.
16:48 Jack Sock, though.
16:50 If I had to pick the one thing that annoys me the most about Lleyton Hewitt, I think I’d have to pick the fact his first name begins with a double-L.
17:01 The Eastbourne champion Belinda Bencic lost the first set to Tsvetana Pironkova of Belarus but has consolidated her recent grass court form and won 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Another seed safely negotiates the first round. In Hewitt – Nieminen, it’s 7-7 in the final set. Bits are dropping off of either player now with increasing regularity.
17:20 Hewitt is handling the pressure admirably here, having now served to stay in the match four times while clearly not at 100% fitness. Impressive stuff, considering what a git I think he is.
17:31 After a thousand years, Jarkko Nieminen wins in five against Lleyton Hewitt, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, 11-9. He’ll face Novak Djokovic in round two. It is also the end of an era, the occasion marking Hewitt’s final singles match at Wimbledon after 17 years as a professional. I won’t miss him, mind you.
17:36 Moving on to the future, Kei Nishikori – who was taken to five sets at this tournament by the same opponent last year – is now on the cusp of losing the fourth set to Simone Bolelli. French Open champion Stan Wawrinka is also now in action on Centre Court. Happily, sartorial rules at SW19 mean that Wawrinka’s ferociously abysmal pink gingham shorts are but a harrowing memory. However, he is comfortably ahead in the match nevertheless, having taken the first set 6-2 against Joao Sousa.
17:44 If there’s one thing I miss about Wimbledon in the old days, or tennis tournaments in the old days in general, it’s the net cord judge sat on a deckchair in the blazing summer sun all day, feeling for vibrations during service in order to call a let. Mechanisation destroys another avenue of human achievement. Is this a sign of the singularity?
17:46 On Court 1, Kei Nishikori is making hard work out of this. He’s the number 5 seed and this ought to have been an easier workout. Some people have even mentioned him as a dark horse for the title. Well, in his defence, there are few easy games on the professional tour and Rafael Nadal always used to be a slow starter at The Championships. However, Nishikori is sweating cobs. Like a fat bloke who, having successfully run to get the bus, is now dealing with the consequences of heat soak.
17:50 I speak from personal experience on that last one.
17:51 Simone Bolelli has a series of black skull patterns on his shirt. This is somewhat incongruous for Wimbledon and is the equivalent, of a regular tennis tournament, of playing the match with a severed head sticking out of your racquet bag. Or your penis out.
17:52 I wonder if there’s ever been a mixed doubles pair who would flop unmentionable parts of their person out in between points to help gee up their fellow’s performance?
17:54 Relief all round the grounds in SW19 as Sue Barker relents and finally interviews Liam Broady on BBC1. As a special bonus, Tiger Tim Henman is alongside them in the studio. Hopefully they will sign his programme.
18:02 Kei Nishikori is now a break of serve up in the final set against Simone Bolelli, leading 3-1 and serving. He has had the trainer on, no doubt all their ATP Tour-approved unguents and potions are now working their magic on his tired gristly parts.