King Federer back in town as Alcaraz and Rybakina shine at Wimbledon


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King Federer back in town as Alcaraz and Rybakina shine at Wimbledon

ROYALTY. Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer alongside Catherine, Princess of Wales.

Toby Melville/REUTERS

Even without a racket, Roger Federer wows Wimbledon as the retired Swiss great makes a surprise appearance on his favorite stage to the delight of a packed Centre Court

LONDON, England – Wimbledon king Roger Federer returned to light up a rain-drenched second day at the grasscourt championships as the new prince of the hallowed lawns Carlos Alcaraz began his campaign to seize the crown on Tuesday, July 4.

Retired Swiss great Federer ditched his racket for a classy cream blazer and a comfy seat as the eight-time Wimbledon champion graced the Royal Box and received possibly the longest ovation of his illustrious career.

On a day when 69 first round matches were rained off, the 41-year-old stayed nice and dry under the closed Centre Court roof to watch defending women’s champion Elena Rybakina come from a set down to beat Shelby Rogers, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

He then saw British national treasure Andy Murray begin his bid for an unlikely third Wimbledon title by dispatching home wildcard Ryan Peniston, 6-3, 6-0, 6-1.

“Amazing to have some royalty here but also some tennis royalty,” Murray told the fans after his victory as Federer smiled. “It was amazing to have Roger supporting the event.”

Murray also managed to get in a jibe at the 20-time Grand Slam champion who he lost to in the 2012 Wimbledon final, memorably shedding tears afterwards before bouncing back to beat the Swiss a few weeks later to win Olympic gold.

“The last time I was here and Roger was watching it was the (2012) Olympics and he was in (fellow Swiss) Stan Wawrinka’s box so it was nice to see some claps for some good shots (today),” said Murray, who beat Wawrinka in the Olympics first round.

‘Jealous’ Alcaraz

But Federer missed Spanish phenomenon Alcaraz, the 20-year-old who has taken the tennis world by storm.

While the Swiss was milking the applause, Alcaraz was on Court One pounding winners past experienced Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory that illustrated why he has surged to the top of the rankings and is seeded Np. 1.

“After the match I was on the phone checking everything, all the stories, all the posts. I saw that Federer was here. I was a little bit jealous,” Alcaraz, who despite oozing confidence on court remains humble in the extreme off of it, told reporters.

“I want Roger Federer to watch one of my matches obviously. I wish to talk a little bit with him. For me would be amazing. I hope to see him around more than once.”

It is unclear how long the retired Federer is in town, but if he is sticking around he will surely want to get a court-side view of the man being labelled the future of men’s tennis.

Federer took until his fifth appearance to claim the Wimbledon crown in 2003 but Alcaraz made no attempt to play down his prospects of winning the title on his third attempt.

“To win the tournament. That’s the main goal right now,” Alcaraz, who finished off Chardy with a 10th ace, said.

“I have a lot of confidence right now. The main goal for me this tournament is to win, to win it.”

Rybakina recovers

Alcaraz, playing his third Wimbledon, bagged the first set in 20 minutes, and the second in not much more time before being pushed harder by the 36-year-old Chardy, who is now retiring but can at least say he faced a player tipped for future domination.

The last point of Chardy’s professional career was an Alcaraz ace that whistled past his outstretched racket.

“I’m really happy with the level that I played, with the performance today,” Alcaraz told reporters.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, meanwhile, looked in danger of becoming the first Wimbledon women’s defending champion to suffer a first-round exit since Steffi Graf in 1994 when American Rogers took the opening set.

Admitting the watching Federer had made the third seed, nervous, she shrugged off that poor start to win in style.

“Amazing atmosphere, it’s the first time I’ve played under the roof and the grass is still on the baseline. It’s amazing,” she said. “Just enjoying the moment here.”

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, beaten by Moscow-born Rybakina in last year’s final, made a solid start as the sixth seed beat Poland’s Magdalena Frech 6-3, 6-3.

Play abandoned

With rain still falling late in the afternoon, play was abandoned on the outside courts with Court Two and Court Three ticket holders and those with ground passes eligible for full refunds after seeing barely an hour of tennis.

But the Centre Court roof, criticized on Monday after an 80-minute delay during men’s champion Novak Djokovic’s opening win, enabled women’s second seed Aryna Sabalenka to reach round two with a 6-3, 6-1 win against Panna Udvardy.

Wednesday, when better weather is forecast, will have a manic schedule as the tournament referee attempts to complete the first-round matches in the top half of the men’s draw and bottom half of the women’s draw.

The only other match played on Tuesday was local hope Cameron Norrie against Czech Tomas Machac, with the 12th-seeded Briton prevailing 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Court One. – Rappler.com

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