Sloane Stephens advances to 2nd round of Wimbledon

Stephens eliminated two-time champion and 10th-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4

Wimbledon returned Monday after being called off in 2020 because of the pandemic, and so much felt rather familiar at the All England Club, from the rain that disrupted the schedule to the victory for Novak Djokovic.

Much like the delays to competition around the grounds — it took about 4 1/2 hours to begin play on the outside courts; more than a dozen matches were postponed entirely — Djokovic got off to a slow start in his bid for a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title and sixth at Wimbledon.

The defending champion dropped the opening set against Jack Draper, a 19-year-old wild-card entry from England who is ranked 253rd, before eventually showing his best tennis under the Centre Court roof and winning 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 with the help of 25 aces.

Djokovic is halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam, after trophies at the Australian Open in February and the French Open two weeks ago. The man he came back to defeat in the final at Roland Garros after dropping the first two sets, No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, quickly was bounced out of the All England Club, losing to 57th-ranked Frances Tiafoe of the United States 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in just over two hours at No. 1 Court.

Sloane Stephens of the US celebrates winning a point against Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova during the women’s singles match on day one of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Monday June 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Tiafoe had been 0-11 against opponents ranked in the Top 5.

“That guy is special. He’s going to do a lot of great things. Win a ton of Grand Slams,” Tiafoe said about Tsitsipas, then broke into a wide smile and added: “But not today.”

Tiafoe is one of 34 Americans in the singles brackets (21 women, 13 men), the most at Wimbledon since there were 35 in 1998. Another U.S. player picked up a big victory when Sloane Stephens eliminated two-time champion and 10th-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4.

Other winners included 2017 champion Garbiñe Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka — who is seeded No. 2 after defending champion Simona Halep and four-time major champ Naomi Osaka pulled out — No. 23 Madison Keys and No. 32 Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The tournament referee began announcing postponements at about 3 p.m., including matches involving five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams and French Open semifinalist Maria Sakkari.

Still, at least there was tennis being played at the venue that hosts the oldest Grand Slam tournament.

Day One: The Championships - Wimbledon 2021
Sloane Stephens of The United States celebrates victory after winning her Ladies’ Singles First Round match against Petra Kvitova of The Czech Republic during Day One of The Championships – Wimbledon 2021 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

“It feels great seeing everyone and being back at probably the most special, most sacred, tennis court in the world,” the top-seeded Djokovic said.

“Alongside many other players, I was very sad last year that Wimbledon was canceled,” he said, referring to the first time it wasn’t contested since World War II. “They were very difficult times for everyone, but I’m really glad that the sport is back. Hopefully you guys have enjoyed it and you will enjoy it in the next couple weeks.”

The coronavirus still looms over the event.

Capacity around the grounds is restricted to 50% now; that will rise to 100% for the singles finals on the fortnight’s closing weekend. Fans must wear masks around the grounds (although not while watching a match) and show proof that they either are fully vaccinated or had COVID-19 in the past six months. All players and their entourages must stay at a designated London hotel, where they take regular tests and are subject to contact tracing.

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