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
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
"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
"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.