LONDON: Defending Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina came from a set down on Centre Court to beat American Shelby Rogers 4-6 6-1 6-2 in the first round on Tuesday (Jul 4).
Watched by record eight-times Wimbledon men’s champion Roger Federer in the royal box, the Kazakh looked to still be suffering from the illness that forced her out of the French Open last month when she was broken in the first game.
Rogers powered through the first set with Rybakina looking out of practice having pulled out of a warm-up tournament in Eastbourne due to a virus.
However, the third seed roared back in the second, showing the kind of strength and composure she utilised to claim her first Grand Slam title in London last year.
The 30-year-old Rogers, ranked 49th in the world, was broken in the first game of the decider when a stinging forehand down the line by Rybakina who successfully overturned the decision to call the ball out.
The 2022 champion never looked back, with another break coming in the seventh game when Rogers double faulted having already saved three break points.
Rybakina, who served 12 aces in the match, closed out victory with a hold to love.
Asked on court if the experience of playing last year’s final at the same venue had helped her this time, Rybakina said: “Actually, it didn’t help me much because I was just as nervous today.
“But amazing atmosphere, it’s the first time I’ve played under the roof and the grass is on the baseline. It’s just amazing. Really happy to go through to the next round and just enjoying the moment here.”
She will face either Japanese lucky loser Nao Hibino or France’s Alize Cornet in the second round.