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Federer back in town as Alcaraz, Rybakina shine at Wimbledon

LONDON — 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.

Retired Swiss great Mr. 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 for the loss of four games.

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

While the Swiss was milking the applause, Mr. 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 number one.

Mr. 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 Mr. Chardy who is now retiring but can at least say he faced a player tipped for future domination.

The last point of Mr. 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,” Mr. Alcaraz told reporters, although he was not so happy that Mr. Federer missed his match.

“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.”

Kazakhstan’s Ms. Rybakina, the third seed, 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 Mr. Federer had made her 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 Ms. Rybakina in last year’s final, made a solid start as the sixth seed beat Poland’s Magdalena Frech 6-3 6-3.

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. — Reuters

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