Five-time champion Novak Djokovic renews his long-standing Wimbledon rivalry with Kevin Anderson on Wednesday as serious questions are asked over the quality of the fabled Centre Court where Serena Williams suffered her tournament-ending injury.
World number one Djokovic, looking to move alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as a 20-time Grand Slam winner, has a 9-2 record over the big South African.
That includes three wins at Wimbledon in 2011, 2015 and in the 2018 final.
Anderson was beaten in straight sets in that championship match three years ago, exhausted by back-to-back five-setters in the last-eight and semi-finals.
He defeated Federer 13-11 in the final set of their quarter-final clash and then John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set of the semi-final.
Since that time, Anderson, now ranked 102 in the world, has undergone two surgeries on his right knee in 2019 and 2020.
“I never really thought of quitting,” said 35-year-old Anderson.
Djokovic opens play on Centre Court, a day after seven-time champion Serena Williams retired with a right leg injury after twice falling over in the first set of her opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The 39-year-old American left the arena in tears as her dream of equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors was again thwarted.
– ‘Meticulous standard’ –
“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw,” she said.
Her fall came not long after French player Adrian Mannarino had slipped and hurt himself on the same part of Centre Court.
He too had to retire with his match against Roger Federer level at two sets apiece.
“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof,” said Federer.
Despite the criticism, the All England Club insisted that the courts are up to standard.
“The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years,” the club said in a statement.
“The weather conditions on the opening two days have been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade, which has required the roof to be closed on Centre Court and No.1 Court for long periods.”
Djokovic had also struggled to keep his feet on Centre Court on Monday when he faced Jack Draper in his first round tie.
The tournament has been hit by heavy rain over the the first two days.
As a result 50 first round matches remained unfinished at the start of Wednesday’s schedule.
Fifth seeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada was knocked out 6-2, 6-1 by France’s Alize Cornet who famously defeated Serena Williams on her way to the last 16 in 2014.
Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, is still to win a main draw match at Wimbledon having lost in the first round as a qualifier in 2017.
– 100 wins for Nishikori –
Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, the champion at Queen’s and tipped to go deep at Wimbledon, edged Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a two-time quarter-finalist, claimed his 100th Grand Slam match win by seeing off Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Britain’s Andy Murray won his first singles match at the tournament in four years when he saw off 24th seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili two days ago.
The three-time champion and former world number one, now down at 118 in the rankings, tackles qualifier Oscar Otte of Germany for a last-32 place later Wednesday.
Murray, 34, has overcome a career-threatening hip injury to still be playing at the highest level.
Both Djokovic and Murray would have been buoyed by seeing world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas removed from their half of the draw in the first round.
In the women’s tournament, Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka, yet to make the last-eight of a Slam, faces British wild card Katie Boulter, the world 219.
Sabalenka won their only previous meeting at the Australian Open in 2019.
Venus Williams, the 41-year-old five-time champion who made her tournament debut in 1997, takes on Ons Jabeur who is hoping to become the first Tunisian to make the third round.
Frances Tiafoe, who knocked out Tsitsipas, plays Vasek Pospisil of Canada.