WIMBLEDON – On a day filled with far more rain drops than drop shots at Wimbledon — light, but persistent, showers prevented the completion, or even start, of dozens of matches — Roger Federer and Andy Murray provided the highlights.
The retired Federer, who won a men’s-record eight of his 20 Grand Slam titles at the All England Club, was in the front row of the Royal Box, where he sat next to Kate, the Princess of Wales. Federer was saluted with a 1 1/2-minute standing ovation during a pre-match tribute to his career at Centre Court on Tuesday.
Hours later, Murray was down below, competing.
Murray won two of his three Grand Slam titles and one of his two Olympic gold medals on that rather famous patch of grass and — even if those triumphs were long ago; even if he is now 36 with an artificial hip — the locals fondly remember those good times, especially his 2013 championship that made him the first British man in 77 years to win the event. They hope for an attention-grabbing show this fortnight, so Murray got most of the full-throated support that reverberated under the closed roof of the main stadium during a 6-3, 6-0, 6-1 victory over wild-card entry Ryan Peniston in an all-Brit first-round match.
“It was amazing to have some royalty here, but also some tennis royalty, as well,” Murray said during his on-court interview, as Kate and Federer looked on.
“It’s amazing to have Roger here, supporting the event,” Murray said. “Last time I was on this court, and he was watching, was during the (2012) Olympics, and he sat in (Swiss countryman) Stan Wawrinka’s box and was supporting against me. So it was nice to see a couple of claps today after some good shots.”
When the interviewer looked toward the guest of honor to ask, “Roger, you approve of today’s performance?” Federer responded with a thumbs-up.
Peniston’s assessment of Murray: “He was just relentless on every point.”
Murray sounded pleased as well after claiming all 11 of his service games, breaking four times and going 17-for-17 at the net.
“I played some good stuff as the match went on. There were some good signs there,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt sort of physically this good coming into Wimbledon. The last few years have been very challenging. I’m hoping I’m fit and ready for a good run.”
At his age and with his two hip operations plus other assorted setbacks, Murray is not considered among the leading favorites. That is a short list that leads with two names and does not include many more: Novak Djokovic, who has won seven of his 23 major titles at Wimbledon, and Carlos Alcaraz, who is ranked No. 1.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz put on his usual display of variety and athleticism — he hit one shot by wrapping his racket around his body and swinging from behind his back while on the run, making contact but sending the ball long — while beating the about-to-retire Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.
Like Murray, Alcaraz was never truly troubled by his opponent.
Unlike Murray, Alcaraz played at No. 1 Court, so he did not get to perform for Federer.
And, boy, was Alcaraz bitter about that.
“After the match, I was (on) the phone checking everything ... all the stories, all the posts. I saw that Roger Federer was here. I was a little bit jealous,” he said with a smile, wearing a white hoodie and bucket hat at his news conference. “Honestly, I want Roger Federer to watch one of my matches, obviously. I (want) to talk a little bit with him. For me, (that) would be amazing.”
Because of the wet weather, the only courts where play was allowed after the rain began on Day 2 were the two with retractable roofs, Centre and No. 1. By the end of the day, only eight of 77 scheduled matches had been completed.
Three leading women — defending champion Elena Rybakina, 2022 runner-up Ons Jabeur and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, who is seeded No. 2 — all won, as did the highest-seeded male British player, No. 12 Cam Norrie. But another seeded man from the host country, No. 27 Dan Evans, lost to Quentin Halys of France 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4. In the last of the matches that concluded — one that commenced at Court 11 on Monday and wrapped up shortly before 10 p.m. at No. 1 Court on Tuesday — No. 29 Tomás Martin Etcheverry finished off a comeback from a two-set deficit to get past Bernabé Zapata Miralles 6-7 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.
Rybakina dropped the opening set against American Shelby Rogers before coming back for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win; Jabeur defeated Magdalena Frech 6-3, 6-3; and Sabalenka eliminated Panna Udvardy 6-3, 6-1 in her return after being banned from Wimbledon a year ago along with other players from her country, Belarus, and Russia over the war in Ukraine.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed this place,” Sabalenka said, “until this match.”