Federer, Hewitt get off to easy start

Updated: June 21, 2004, 4:52 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- On a stop-start day of weather delays, 32-year-old Goran Ivanisevic stepped back on Centre Court for the first time since winning the Wimbledon title as a wild card in 2001 to defeat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 in the first round on Monday.

"I left 2001 with a victory, a great moment," Ivanisevic said. "I came back today, another victory. I enjoyed today every second on Centre Court."

The Croatian, playing in his last tournament before retirement, missed the the last two Wimbledons due to injuries.

Ivanisevic saluted the heavens and blew kisses to the delighted crowd when Youzhny floated a backhand long after 86 minutes.

He will next face either British qualifier Jamie Delgado or Filippo Volandri of Italy.

Ivanisevic provided the emotional highlights on a day in which defending champion Roger Federer and former winner Lleyton Hewitt advanced in straight sets.

Federer opened defense of his men's title with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win over 290th-ranked British wild card Alex Bogdanovic on Centre Court.

Coming off a victory in a tuneup tournament at Halle, Germany, the all-court Swiss player won his 18th straight match on grass -- the longest streak since Pete Sampras won 23 in a row from Wimbledon in 1998 to Queen's in 2000.

"It was important to get that good start," he said. "I saw he really couldn't hurt me on my own serve. This is really when I could just play consistent. That was enough."

Hewitt, the 2002 champion who is seeded No. 7, beat Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Last year, Hewitt became the first defending men's champion to go out in the first round since 1967 when he lost to Ivo Karlovic.

"Only had one point to defend," Hewitt cracked. "So I wasn't worried about my ranking taking a dive anyway."

The highest seed to go out was No. 13 Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand. Coming off a grass-court title last weekend in Nottingham, England, Paradorn lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Karlovic.

Ivanisevic won Wimbledon as a wild card in 2001, beating Pat Rafter in a dramatic five-set final. He missed the last two Wimbledons due to injuries and has come back for one last time before retiring.

"When I saw this crowd, I thought, 'That was worth it for these two years, struggling, doing therapy, all kinds of therapy, being up and down,'" he said. "It was worth it to fight and come back and be today on Centre Court."

Ivanisevic made the most of it -- playing to the crowd, hamming it up and blowing kisses.

After closing out the match, Ivanisevic crossed himself and held out his arms, soaking up the applause.

"Beautiful," he said. "It's the first time I walked on Centre Court for the first round in my whole Wimbledon career. New, nice grass, very green. Unbelievable feeling."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

ALSO SEE