Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ESPNTennis [Print without images]

Monday, June 22, 2009
Updated: June 23, 6:48 AM ET
Federer looking good -- for the most part


An unburdened Roger Federer walked onto revamped Centre Court to kick-start the world's most revered tennis tournament, just like he has done the previous five visits. Thank Rafael Nadal's wonky knees for the latest installment.

Federer, who sported a lovely cream-colored blazer at the All England Club a few years ago, donned something a little more daring, shall we say, prior to his encounter with Taipei's Yen-Hsun Lu on a mostly cloudy Monday. The BBC's Web site described the all-white, slightly baggy, two-piece set thusly: "A round-neck, sub-Beatles '63 collar, military pockets on breast and shoulder … if Roger was to wear it on genuine military maneuvers, he'd have to hope he'd be posted to the Arctic Circle or he'd stick out like a whitewashed thumb."

Minus a minor hiccup early in the first set, Federer's 2009 grass-court bow turned out to be a comfortable straight-sets drill against the hard-working and flashy Lu, Asia's highest-ranked men's player, who knocked off Big Four stalwart Andy Murray at last summer's Olympics and the unpredictable David Nalbandian at this year's Australian Open.

It took only a set and a half for Federer to pull off what's destined to be one of the shots of the fortnight. Serving at 4-2, deuce, having just saved two break points in the second set, Lu delivered an impressive angled backhand overhead at the net, perhaps one of the hardest shots in the book.

Federer -- surprise, surprise -- outdid the 25-year-old Lu. He raced outside the tram lines to get to the ball, then, net out of the equation, got down low to hit a backhand that found the corner. Federer, seeking a record 15th major and with the French Open title now in his back pocket, raised a clenched fist. The crowd roared.

He wasn't asked about clothing during his postmatch news conference, but one persistent British inquisitor wondered when wife Mirka Vavrinec is due to give birth to the couple's first child. Rumblings suggest it could be in August. Federer didn't budge.

Serena Williams' first-round victory over a plucky Portuguese who hasn't played many Grand Slams was predictable, too. No, the second seed wasn't raising decibels with teenage shrieker Michelle Larcher De Brito, but rather tangling with 26-year-old qualifier Neuza Silva.

Williams, favored to meet sister and two-time defending champion Venus Williams in a second straight Wimbledon final, advanced 6-1, 7-5.

Always chatty after winning, Williams briefly relived her French Open quarterfinal choke against eventual champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, a friend. Williams actually used the word "choked."

The 10-time Grand Slam winner later discussed, humorously, the influx of non-American faces on the tour.

"I just know the standard: Everyone is from Russia," Williams said. "Sometimes I think I'm from Russia, too. I feel like, you know, OK, all these new 'ovas.' I don't know anyone. I don't really recognize anyone."

Eleven Russians, by the way, currently reside in the top 50 on the women's tour.

James Blake has long been ranked in the top 50 among the men, and he has long struggled at Wimbledon. No reversal of fortune Monday.

The United States' No. 2, seeded 17th, wasn't sure about a few calls late in the third-set tiebreaker of his 5-7, 4-6, 6-7 (5) defeat to steady, stoic Italian Andreas Seppi, when he blew a 5-0 lead. The turning point, though, might have come late in the first set, as Seppi broke in an extended 11th game.

Blake, who dealt with an upset stomach, reached the final of the AEGON Championships in London last week. He has never advanced past the third round at Wimbledon.

Blake's plan at The Queen's Club was to stay in Europe to gear up for the Davis Cup quarterfinals against Croatia that begin July 10, no matter what transpired at Wimbledon. (Yes, assuming he gets picked.)

That might change if he exits early in doubles with pal Mardy Fish, a winner over Sergio Roitman on Monday. Down two sets and 4-1, Roitman bailed with a shoulder injury.

"One tough loss in doubles might make my bed at home seem much more inviting," Blake said, smiling.

No going home early for Federer and Williams.