Vasek Pospisil posts 1st victory at Wimbledon since 2015 quarter-final run
Defending champion Novak Djokovic halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam
Canada's Vasek Pospisil is heading to the second round at Wimbledon.
Pospisil, from Vancouver, beat Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round of the grass-court Grand Slam on Monday in London, England.
Pospisil, ranked 65th in the world, recorded his first win at Wimbledon since making a run to the quarter-finals in 2015.
The Canadian fired 17 aces and won 82 per cent of points when he got his first serve in against the world No. 100.
Pospisil will next face world No. 57 Frances Tiafoe. The American upset No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday.
WATCH | Pospisil wins Wimbledon opener in straight sets:
It will mark the first career meeting between Pospisil and Tiafoe.
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., is the top-ranked Canadian men's player.
Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime, Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., and Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, Que., are the other Canadians in the singles draws.
Djokovic rallies against English teen, Tsitsipas ousted
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 4½ 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.
Tiafoe had been 0-11 against opponents ranked in the top five.
"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."
WATCH l 57th-ranked Tiafoe eliminates 3rd-seeded Tsitsipas:
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.
Before Djokovic and Draper opened the proceedings in the main stadium — an honour reserved for the previous year's men's champion — there were announcements over the loudspeakers welcoming "special guests in the Royal Box," including someone involved in vaccine development and frontline medical workers.
That was met with a standing ovation, just the first of the day.
2 tumbles to the ground
Another arrived when Draper grabbed the first set, surely to the surprise of his country, to Djokovic and the kid himself.
It would have been so easy — so understandable, even — for Draper to be fazed by the moment and the opponent, the setting and the stakes right at the outset. This was his Grand Slam main draw debut, after all.
Djokovic took two tumbles onto his backside in the first set, losing his footing on the slick grass behind the baseline. This was his first competitive singles match on the surface since edging Roger Federer in the 2019 final after saving two championship points.
"To be honest, I don't recall falling this many times on the court," Djokovic said with a laugh. "Well, quite slippery, whether it's because the roof is closed or it was raining quite a lot the last few days, I don't know."
WATCH l Wimbledon returns 1 year after COVID-19 cancellation:
Draper broke for a 2-1 lead, helped by Djokovic's double-fault, missed forehand and flubbed volley, and held on for that set.
Djokovic accumulated seven break points in the initial set: one the first time Draper served, two the next time and four the fourth time, a game the left-hander escaped with the help of two aces in a row at 125 mph and 117 mph.
A 125 mph service winner gave Draper that set and he shook his racket, then pumped his right fist.
The crowd roared.
Pandemic still a concern
And two hours later, it was all over. Djokovic cleaned up his act considerably, going from just six winners and nine unforced errors in the opening set to a combined 41 winners and 15 unforced errors the rest of the way.
The tournament referee began announcing postponements at about 3 p.m. local time, 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.
The coronavirus still looms over the event.
Capacity around the grounds is restricted to 50 per cent now; that will rise to 100 per cent 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.
With files from The Associated Press