WIMBLEDON, England — Three of tennis’ marquee players cruised down the road in first-round matches at Wimbledon on Tuesday, and Rafael Nadal, perhaps the brightest star of all, traveled a bumpy road.
That’s relatively speaking. Nadal lost a set. The others—Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova—barely lost a game.
Nadal has struggled here the last two years. So when he dropped the first set on Center Court to Slovakian left-hander Martin Klizan, antennas went up.
But then he set his jaw, pumped his fist a lot and won the next three in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory that was, in the long run, quite convincing.
“It was a positive match for me,” Spanish star Nadal said. “First thing, because I won. That’s the most important thing.”
It was the same for Federer, Williams and Sharapova. No matter how big a star you are, just getting that first-rounder out of the way, as well as the normal nerves that accompany it, is a good day.
Federer barely had to breathe heavily in his 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 rout of Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi.
“I got the break, I think, in all three sets in the return game,” the Swiss legend said. “I was always up in the score…. It’s easier to play that way.”
Williams was on Center Court just long enough to get her racket strings stretched in her 6-1, 6-2 victory over fellow U.S. player Anna Tatishvili.
“I like the grass,” Williams said. “There is so much history here. I like that. I like that everybody wears white.”
Sharapova was even quicker than Williams. Fresh from her French Open title, her second at Roland Garros, she dispatched England’s Samantha Murray, 6-1, 6-0.
“As the match progressed, I got more comfortable,” Sharapova said.
All four of these superstars have dealt with recent demons at Wimbledon.
Nadal went out in the second round here two years ago and in the first round last year to Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, his next opponent.
But he also has won this tournament twice, in 2008 and ‘10, and has been in three other finals.
Federer has won here seven times but was upset in the second round last year. This year, he has added former star Stefan Edberg to his support team and that prompted questions about the possibility of more serving-and-volleying, which was Eberg’s style.
“I think it could be that little extra piece to the puzzle that could bring me through …an extra option,” Federer said.
Williams, who has won five Wimbledon titles, went out to Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the fourth round last year. She also lost early in the French.
“Whenever I slip,” she said, “I try to get back up.”
Sharapova, who won her Wimbledon title 10 years ago as a 17-year-old, also had a bad slip here last year, losing in the second round.
Seeded U.S. men’s player John Isner, No. 9, advanced past Daniel Smethurst of England, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Another U.S. player, Jack Sock, got through a tight 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, as did U.S. women’s player Victoria Duval, who beat Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Other U.S. winners: Denis Kudla, Sam Querrey, Varvara Lepchenko, Madison Keys and Alison Riske.