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Wimbledon, a Longstanding Tradition, Opens with a Flurry of Changes


WIMBLEDON, England — It’s about tradition this yr at Wimbledon on the a centesimal anniversary of Centre Court, but because the defending men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic walked back onto the grass on Monday to launch this yr’s tournament, it was also about change.

There’s loads of it on the All England Club in 2022: large and small; obvious and subtle.

The massive stuff: Russian and Belarusian players (and journalists) have been barred due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The tournament has been expanded from 13 days of play, with no matches scheduled on the primary Sunday, to a full 14 days that can leave no respite for the grass and the leafy neighborhood.

The little stuff: The benches and desks within the Centre Court press seats have been replaced with padded chairs. All England Club members with their circular purple badges not function moderators at news conferences. Now, the celebs sit alone at the podium, as they do nearly all over the place else within the tennis world.

As if to underscore the theme, Djokovic and his first-round opponent, Kwon Soon-woo, arrived on probably the most celebrated court in tennis in novel fashion.

Players have long exited the clubhouse and made a tough left, passing behind a screen with a club member leading the way in which, before taking a tough right and stepping onto the grass.

Starting this yr, they walk straight ahead and unaccompanied out of the clubhouse and onto the court through a recent set of green doors which might be quickly closed behind them.

It seemed unceremoniously abrupt to those used to the old ways and keen on the murmurs from the gang that used to construct into cheers because the players navigated the passageway before coming fully into public view.

However the pixie dust was still there, as Djokovic confirmed after his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory, which seemed even closer than the rating.

“Childhood dreams were realized here in 2011,” Djokovic said of the primary of his six Wimbledon singles titles. “I’ll always remember that. It can all the time have a special place in my heart. In fact, each time I step on the market on the court, there may be this goose bumps kind of feeling, butterflies within the stomach.”

It happens the primary time, too, as Emma Raducanu later confirmed. All in a rush last yr, she became a world star and a superstar in Britain by winning the U.S. Open at age 18, becoming the primary player to win a Grand Slam singles title as qualifier. Victories have been much harder to come back by since then, but she already had wonderful memories of Wimbledon after reaching the fourth round in her first appearance within the most important draw last yr.

Monday, nevertheless, was her first match on Centre Court, and though she has barely played on grass this season due to injuries, she managed the moment, and a difficult opponent in Alison Van Uytvanck, to win 6-4, 6-4.

Raducanu will not be able to take over women’s tennis. No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who just turned 21, has taken up that air and space. But Raducanu clearly knows find out how to rise to an occasion.

“From the moment I walked out through those gates, I could really just feel the energy and the support and everybody was behind me from the word ‘go’,” she said. “I just really tried to cherish each point on there, played every point prefer it might have been one among my last on that court.”

That was imaginative pondering indeed, considering that Raducanu, Britain’s first women’s Grand Slam singles champion since Virginia Wade within the Seventies, is poised to be a Centre Court fixture for a decade or more if she will remain healthy.

Andy Murray knows the drill. He, too, became a Centre Court regular in his teens and eventually lived as much as the billing by ending a 77-year drought for British men in singles by winning Wimbledon in 2013 and again in 2016.

Twiddling with a synthetic hip at age 35, Murray has proved his love of his craft beyond an inexpensive doubt. Though he won’t ever bridge the achievement gap that separates him from the Big Three of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer — each with 20 or more major singles titles — Murray stays a threat on grass on any given afternoon.

He demonstrated it with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over James Duckworth that closed play on Centre Court on opening day, almost exactly eight hours after it had begun and almost exactly 100 years after the primary opening day on Centre Court.

That was on June 26, 1922, after the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club moved from its cozier, original home on Worple Road after purchasing land on Church Road to accommodate a recent, larger stadium. The most important court at Worple Road had been called Centre Court since it was actually at the middle of the grounds. The club kept the name despite the fact that the brand new primary court was not so central.

The brand new Wimbledon got off to a soggy start with rain and more rain, forcing the 1922 edition to complete on a Wednesday, but it surely was still a preferred success with worthy singles champions: the fashionable and long unbeatable Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen and the Australian men’s star Gerald Patterson, a two-time Wimbledon champion nicknamed “The Human Catapult” due to his big serve (he could volley, too).

Each Lenglen and Patterson would have been in for a couple of surprises in the event that they had been watching on Monday. Centre Court is now rainproof with its retractable, accordion-style roof that was put to good use for Djokovic’s and Kwon’s duel.

The electronic scoreboards and the touch screen operated by the chair umpire would even have caught their eyes, as would the once-unthinkable indisputable fact that the chair umpire for Monday’s opening men’s match was a lady: Marija Cicak.

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