Agassi, Capriati, Serena win in straight sets

Andre Agassi opens play on Centre Court at Wimbledon by overwhelming Israel's Harel Levy in straight sets 6-0, 6-4, 6-4.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
  • Total Shares

Wimbledon, England:

Andre Agassi opened play on Centre Court at Wimbledon by overwhelming Israel's Harel Levy in straight sets Monday as the championships got underway without a rain cloud in sight. With 2001 champion Goran Ivanisevic absent following shoulder surgery, Agassi was given the honor of playing the first match on Centre Court and he didn't waste any time in underlining his title credentials. The third-seeded American, who won Wimbledon in 1992, took 1 hour, 29 minutes to beat Levy 6-0, 6-4, 6-4. Playing his first grass-court match of the year, Agassi ripped through the opening set in just 18 minutes. Levy, who is ranked No. 326 and has won only one grass-court match in his career, raised his arms in mock triumph when he held serve to open the second set. Agassi needed one service break to take the second set. He faltered briefly near the end of the third set when he was broken at love while serving for the match at 5-2. After Levy held at love for 5-4, Agassi didn't waver this time and served out the match. Agassi, who is always a crowd favorite here, waved, blew kisses and bowed as the Centre Court spectators gave him a warm ovation. Agassi, who is known more for his returns than his serves, had a surprising 16 aces and 10 service winners. Playing mostly from the baseline, he had 46 winners and 17 unforced errors. Serena Williams followed Agassi on Centre Court and needed only 42 minutes to dispose of 103rd-ranked Evie Dominikovic of Australia 6-1, 6-1. The second-seeded Williams, who had 20 winners and only one unforced error, beamed and blew kisses after crushing a forehand service return winner on her second match point. Serena's sister, top-seeded and two-time defending champion Venus, plays her first-round match Tuesday against British wild card Jane O' Donoghue. The Williams sisters, who have shared six of the last 11 Grand Slams, are seeded to meet in the final. Jennifer Capriati, meanwhile, opened her bid for a first Wimbledon title with a comfortable 6-1, 6-4 win over Janette Husarova. The third-seeded American, who has won the Australian Open twice and French Open once, played unspectacular tennis but did just enough to get past the 41st-ranked Slovakian in the opening match on Court 1. Capriati broke three times in the first set. She fell behind 3-1 in the second, but then ran off four straight games to take command. It was an unsteady performance from Capriati, who served six double faults and had 24 unforced errors to go with her 16 winners. In other early matches, 14th-seeded Thomas Enqvist swept past Britain's Arvind Parmar 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, and No. 29 James Blake advanced when Mariano Zabaleta quit with an illness after losing the first two sets 6-2, 6-2. Richard Krajicek, who won Wimbledon in 1996 and is one of only three former champions in the draw along with Agassi and Pete Sampras, got off to a good start. Playing only his second match since Nov. 2000 following shoulder surgery, the big Dutchman beat Franco Squillari 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (5). With Ivanisevic out with a shoulder injury and two-time runner-up Rafter taking an extended break from the sport, it's the first time since 1931 that neither of the previous year's finalists returned. With Ivanisevic staying at home, he was represented in the Royal Box by his father, Srdjan. With Sampras no longer his dominant self, there is no overwhelming men's favorite this year. Eight men have won the last eight Grand Slam titles. "This tournament's wide open,'' said Agassi's coach, Darren Cahill. "There are half a dozen guys who are level with a chance to win." The British bookmakers' 4-1 favorite is Tim Henman, who has made the semifinals in three of the last four years. No British player has lifted the Wimbledon men's trophy since Fred Perry in 1936. With England losing to Brazil in the quarterfinals of soccer's World Cup, the weight of the nation is now on Henman. Henman was asked Sunday about the possibility of Queen Elizabeth II attending the final, as she did in the last Jubilee year, 1977, when Virginia Wade was the last Briton to win a Wimbledon singles title. "That would be great," he said. "But I'll worry about that if I get to the final. I have to get to the final first." (AP)