LONDON, (Reuters) – When Roger Federer’s game flows at Wimbledon and his opponent knows his place you half expect him to slide into a deckchair at changeovers, pour cream on to some strawberries and tuck in.
It was like that on Centre Court yesterday as the King of Cool began his quest for an eighth title at the All England Club with a nonchalant dismantling of Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur.
With the mercury soaring into the high 80s Fahrenheit as London prepares for a heatwave, spectators were spared the full glare of the mid-afternoon sun thanks to the welcome shade offered by the partly-extended roof.
For 88th-ranked Dzumhur there was no escape from the dazzling shot-making of the Swiss maestro who won 6-1 6-3 6-3.
It was a similar story earlier as reigning women’s champion Petra Kvitova scorched the grass with some searing serves in a 35-minute demolition of Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens. She dropped only one point on serve in a commanding first-round show of force that augurs well for her chances of repeating her title charge of 12 months ago when she blew Eugenie Bouchard away in a one-sided final.
German 10th seed Angelique Kerber also caught fire, thrashing compatriot Carina Witthoeft 6-0 6-0 to record the third so-called ‘double bagel’ in the women’s singles so far, the most since 1996.
It was not all one-way traffic for fancied players though.
Third seed Simona Halep checked out 5-7 6-4 6-3 in round one against 106th-ranked Slovakian Jana Cepelova to become the highest-profile casualty so far.
Last year’s runner-up Bouchard’s fall from grace continued as she was bundled out by China’s Duan Yingying.
By contrast, all of the top 16 men’s seeds are still alive.
Britain’s number three seed Andy Murray had some tricky moments before overcoming Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4 7-6(3) 6-4 — dropping serve three times in the second set.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who 2013 champion Murray could play in the last 16, needed five sets to scramble past Luxembourg leftie Gilles Muller.
With umbrellas popping up around the grounds, for shade not falling raindrops, London’s hottest day of the year so far seemed to agree with Spain’s twice former champion Rafa Nadal.
Lurking in the draw as 10th seed after a poor year, the 29-year-old bludgeoned Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci 6-4 6-2 6-4.
World number two Federer, starting his 63rd consecutive grand slam, which he firmly believes can deliver a long-awaited 18th title, was given carte blanche to go through his exquisite repertoire against the willing Dzumhur — a player whose first tennis shots were forged in bomb-ravaged Sarajevo.
The 23-year-old Dzumhur pushed Federer harder at the French Open this year, but looked like he had turned up uninvited to a Federer garden party on the world’s most famous lawn at times.
He at least finally made Federer sweat, but not much as the free-swinging Swiss fired off graceful winners and raced through service games in the blink of an eye.
“I’m sure in some crazy way he’s also enjoying himself, he can look back and say I played on Centre,” Federer, who has earned $90 million in prize money compared to the $500,000 banked by his opponent, told reporters.
Nadal supporters insist that but for injuries he would already have matched Federer’s grand slam haul rather than be three short, though they would struggle to argue that their man makes winning look as easy as his great rival.
But there were hints on Tuesday against Bellucci that Nadal is returning to the kind of form that saw him beat Federer in an epic 2008 final and then regain the title in 2010.
“For me the conditions were great. It’s difficult to think about a better day to play tennis here in Wimbledon,” said the Spaniard.
He was not getting carried away though, especially with several early blow-outs at Wimbledon fresh in the memory.
“Second round, that’s all,” said Nadal, who next plays Germany’s dreadlocked Dustin Brown who once beat him on grass.
“I am a little bit more confident now than I was a few months ago. Obviously victories help.”