Monday, June 21, 2010
06/21/2010 Federer made to later in the first match

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• Today's order of play
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4.15pm: At the top of set five, the early signs are that Falla is fading. Did the tie-break snap his spirit? Looser, more relaxed than he's looked all afternoon, Federer immediately breaks serve and then holds for 2-0. All at once, Falla's shots turn sloppy and lacking in belief. His head is down and his feet are heavy.

In the next game he scraps to 40-15 and is then brought back to deuce, pushing a forehand way beyond the baseline. Federer dinks a beautiful drop shot to reach break-point, only for Falla to save it with a smash. The Colombian is still hitting some glorious balls but his challenge is more fitful, less sustained.

Federer returns to the breakpoint and exciting game with an elegant backhand up the line. He leads the final set 3-0 with a double break.

4.05pm: The opening match on Centre Court is now headed for a fifth set. Federer romps through the tie-break, winning it 7-1 and finishing it off with a sharply angled cross-court backhand that leaps off the court and then dips to the sidelines, miles away from the scurrying Falla. The challenger has ran so far this afternoon and he must now run for a few miles more. But does he still have the heart and the energy. He must have already won this contest three or four times over. And yet each time, somehow, Federer has clawed his way back into contention.

4pm: In the press room, hardened sports reporters are baying at the screens. Out on Centre Court, they're raising the rafters. Falla clings on, against the odds, to make it 6-6, anticipating correctly to run down a Federer bazooka to his forehand and lash it down the line for a winner. And that sends us into the tie-break.

3:50 pm: Alejandro Falla serves for the match at 5-4 only for Federer to rise up like Lazarus. At 15-30 the champion raids his box of magic and emerges with an outrageous backhand drop-shot to open up the court. At 30-40, he steps forward and puts his whole weight behind a forehand that rips off the baseline for a winner. That leaves the set tied at five games apiece. Up in the players' box, Federer's dad has damn near levitated in his excitement.

3.40pm: Down on a sun-blasted Centre Court, Falla is reading Federer's serve as though it's a large-print book. He lashes returns deep into the court and keeps the top seed on his heels. Even when Federer appears to have him on the run, he sees the ball clearly, flattens his stroke and sends the ball down the sidelines at a terrific speed, using the Swiss's pace against him. It's an audacious, hit-and-hope approach that's been paying huge dividends here today.

Falla serves at 4-3, fourth set. He is within sight of victory - except that he's been here before and it didn't pan out. Sure enough, Federer applies the pressure. He clambers to 0-30, and then to 30-40. Is Falla about to crack? He swings his lefty serve into Federer's background to save the break point and then does it again to win the game.

So no. Falla not cracking, at least not just yet. He leads 5-3 and will now serve for the match, with history on his racket face.

Needless to say, there are other matches going on as well. Needless to say, we can wait to hear about them,

3.25pm: You would forgive Alejandro Falla for suffering a let down after losing that third set. You'd understand if it took the wind out of his sails and if he took some time out to regroup - maybe opting to keep his powder dry for a final death-or-glory stand in the deciding set.

Instead, he he has stayed cool, calm, collected. He goes and breaks Federer's serve in the opening game and now leads 2-1.

3.05pm Roger Federer belatedly hits the accelerator. He surges to set point and then takes the third set with a glorious forehand that clips the line. He pumps a fist and roars at the grass. In the past five minutes, the momentum of this match has swung his way. But he still trails Falla 5-7, 4-6, 6-4.

3pm: Hold on to your Pimms, your crucifix, your pre-tournament form book. The reigning Wimbledon champion is teetering on the brink. He has looked jaded, flat-footed, a shadow of his former self. He has sprayed forehands past the baseline and sent backhands to the net. And Falla, to his eternal credit, has played the match of his life. He has run for everything, struck laser-beam passing shots and shown a revelatory touch at the net.

At 4-4, love-40, it looks all over for Roger Federer. And then, way later than it should have happened, the Kracken wakes, the Swiss stirs and the crisis is averted. Federer storms back to take the game, roaring himself on, as though he has suddenly twigged what's happening out there. Falla must now serve to stay in the set. But phew, it was a close-run thing.

2:50 pm: Out on Centre Court, Alejandro Falla is clinging on in set three as the champion probes for an opening to turn this nightmare around. Federer clobbers a few piercing forehands but he looks tense and his timing is off. The good news is that Falla is toiling too. He has a groin strain and keeps summoning the trainer during the change of ends. Could it be he's slowing down?

If Federer is to quash this rebellion it has to be now. He connects with a crisp backhand down the line to bring up break point. But again, incredibly, Falla wriggles free to tie the score at three games apiece. And this strange tale remains as strange as ever.

Who is this Falla anyhow? The more I see of him, the more he reminds me of someone. He has the left-handed groundstrokes, the heavy top-spin, the western grip. He runs like a rabbit and seems to love lashing those southpaw forehands into Federer's backhand corner. He also has injury issues, a trainer always at hand.

The evidence is compelling. Could Alejandro Falla - lowly, unfancied Alejandro Falla - actually be Rafa Nadal in disguise? Has anyone actually seen these two players on the same court at the same time?

2.30pm: It's crunch time for Falla, who steps out to serve for a two set lead. Each point is a heart-stopper, each exchange a mini epic. Both players are tight-lipped and positively fizzing with nervous energy. At set-point to Falla, Federer hits his best shot of the match - a backhand return up the line from way out of court. There are two further set points, but these prompt two anguished errors from Falla. All at once he seems to have lead in his boots.

It is the longest game of the match. On and on it goes: deuce, advantage, deuce, advantage. And then, on his fourth set point, Falla jams Federer with a clever body-line serve and then scurries into the net to knock off a forehand volley. That's it: Falla takes the second set to lead 7-5, 6-4.

The five green monkeys erupt in jubilation. They go scampering up into the aisles, biting and clawing at the spectators; stealing their strawberries and drinking their Pimms.

Roger Federer is now two sets in the hole and this year's Wimbledon is officially on the planet of the monkeys. This, needless to say, is not how it was meant to be.

2.15pm:Alejandro Falla only broken by Roger Federer 'serve to lead 7-5, 4-3. Five green monkeys have just entered the center of the courtyard, where they are now dancing to the uncertainty of the grid and singing Moon River all ballgirls.

One of the above proposals completely totaled tissue of lies. But now, for life, I 'm trying to recall which one.

2pm:Just time for a quick recap on some other results already in real world, from Mondo Bizarro-Wimbledon 's Center for the court, where unfancied Alejando Falla leads Roger Federer 7-5, 2-2.

Vera Zvonareva has won. Karolina Sprem has won. Over on Court One, seventh seed Nikolay Davydenko is a set down to the American Kevin Anderson. Davydenko is the energiser bunny of men's tennis. He plays everywhere, at any time and bagged the biggest title of his career at last year's ATP finals. But he has never performed well at Wimbledon and is also struggling to recover from a wrist injury. Oh, and Elena Baltacha is now 1-4 down in the final set against Petra Martic. But for the time being, of course, we're staying on Centre.


1.45pm: The worm has turned, the gardener has rebelled and the king is in trouble. Against all the odds, against all the predictions, Roger Federer has a match on his hands. Falla has just broken at 5-5, courtesy of a double fault, a lancing forehand winner and a gliding backhand volley that leaves the Swiss stranded. Falla now serves for the first set. Wonder of wonders.


Thanks for your comments and gallant attempts at Wimbledon poems. Am half-tempted to write the rest of this blog in rhyming couplets but reckon I'll stick with the edgy, free-verse approach, at least for now.

Falla holds and the contest is locked at three games each. This means that Falla has now equalled the number of games he took from Federer in the last match they played. I'm guessing he's feeling pretty pleased with himself right now.

1.15pm: News from the ground. Just over an hour into this year's championship and we already have a winner. Out on Court Nine, Yung-Jan Chan (ranked 77) has whopped Patty Snyder (ranked 78) 6-0, 6-2.

On 14, Lopez ekes the first set on a tie-break while Federer eases 2-1 up on serve in the first set on Centre, swiping forehands into the corners as Falla chases shadows.

Ah, and Clijsters joins Chan in the locker room. The Belgian has just beaten Camerin 6-0, 6-3 to get her Wimbledon comeback underway.

1pm: The balcony at the press area looks out over lowly Court 14. At the baseline, Spain's Feliciano Lopez (the man who cuffed Nadal at Queens) is being given a major work-out by America's Jesse Levine and the first set looks to be heading for a tie-break.

Lopez looks cool, almost sleepy. But he's clouting his serve to stay alive, crying out at the exertion of it all, and labouring back and forth to slice his backhand and keep Levine at bay. It's safe to say that this is not the gentle curtain-raiser he was looking for. It used to be that Wimbledon's courts played faster and lower than the ones at Queens. If this is still the case, Lopez is struggling to adjust his game.

And now, at the trial center, Roger Federer moves to open his defense. It goes like Gatsby arriving at the cocktail reception: immaculate, blow-dried and fresh laundered. In the crowd someone wolf whistles and the champion replied with a shy smile.

By contrast, his opponent, Alejandro Falla, looks pensive and irritable, seemingly overcome by the occasion. If Federer is Gatsby, Falla is his lowly deck chair attendant, or possibly the grump, overworked gardener. He gulps air as the knock-up gets underway, flicking clumsily at an overhead. He's only been out there three minutes and already he looks in need of a sit down.


"Did we get to 12.23 without a question about Andy Murray?" marvels McEnroe, who has grown as used to fielding questions about Murray as he once was fielding questions about Tim Henman. "I thought I was out of here."

For the record, McEnroe still believes that Murray can lift this trophy - but maybe not this year. Since surging to the Australian Open final back in February, the Scot has struggled and is still without a title in 2010. That finals defeat has knocked his confidence. He faces a long, hard climb to the summit if he is to go one better than he did last year.

First set to Clijsters, meantime. Right now she's set fair for the first victory at this year's championship.

Apologies, too, for the delay between posts. The fault its partly mine and partly laptop, but mainly it's the laptop. I can blame the laptop with impunity, safe in the knowledge that it can't answer back.

12:33 pm: And so play starts! Kim Clijsters is already four games to love up against Maria Elena Camerin on Court No2. Is this the year the dominance of the Williams sisters ends?

11.44am:Horde territory. They come in hundreds along the route in rats and gather in huddles on the grass, Murray Mount (Tilt, formerly known as Henman Hill). But, as I do, they go and massaging with a little visible purpose, and they drift past the tennis courts, located as blank canvases. There is still almost half an hour before the ball struck in anger.

Until then we are occupied with scouting the terrain and finding our feet. Until then, in other words, we are stuck in the Wimbledon equivalent of silly season. With this in mind I am indebted to my colleague Simon Jeffery for forwarding me a story about the final destination of the championship tennis balls. Turns out that many of them will eventually make the exodus to Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire where they will spend their retirement as "homes for harvest mice".

No more being pounded back and forth by Serena Williams. No more being top-spun into a daze by Rafael Nadal. Instead, they will sit tight in Slimbridge and get defecated in by rodents. "We're hoping it will be a case of game, set and mouse," chirrups John Crooks, mammal manager at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Fingers crossed this event kicks off on time. Pray God there are no rain delays. If so, we may well be ringing up in search of more puns from the mammal manager, and perhaps even requesting an interview with a rehoused mouse. Kim Clijsters is first up on Court Two. What are the odds of bringing the match forward by ooh, 15-minutes or so?

11.36am: Is Wimbledon the hardest thing to rhyme another word with?
Here's the first effort of SW19's poet in residence:

Excuse me. I'm sorry. I speak as an Englishman.

For the game of lawn tennis there's no

better symbol than Wimbledon.

The place where the flame game "has

aroused, and then lit in,

Where so many thorns are straight Sat

and then tingled in


10.55am: It's day one of the Wimbledon championships and the grounds are all-but ready. Obscure, lowly-ranked tennis pros lug their rackets up the stairwells and caterers push jingling trolleys on the walkways. Nick Bolletteri, mentor to the Agassi generation of American world-beaters, is basking like a lizard outside the doors to Centre Court. It is all eminently civilised; a little private party on a summer's morning.

And then, over the PA, comes the announcement to the stewards to open the gates. I guess this means we're starting. Any second now the place will be rammed. The journeymen pros will scurry to their locker rooms and basking Bollettieri will be forced to fly â€" fly! â€" for cover beneath the nearest rock.

Outside the windows of the press centre, the crowds are filing by and the grounds are filling up. I'm heading out for a spell, to gauge the atmosphere and grab a sandwich. The refreshment kiosks have just opened and, if I leave it any longer, the lines are liable to be as long as a gorilla's forearm. But, from my vantage at the window, I note that many of these spectators look a little old and slow. Hurry now and I reckon I can outpace them in the race for the freshest croissant. Back shortly.

10.31am: Good morning and welcome to our Wimbledon 2010 live blog, bringing you the latest news and results, gossip and all-important weather updates.

To get you started, we preview Laura Robson's chances of causing an upset against Jelena Jankovic, a Small Talk interview with Elena Baltacha and Serena Williams's thoughts on whether she can win her 13th grand slam title.

On the men's side of things, Roger Federer promises not to let Switzerland's World Cup exploits distract his pursuit of yet more success at SW19 and an interview with Dustin Brown.

Oh, and a fella called Andy Murray kicks off his bid for a first grand slam title tomorrow. You can read interviews, news and much more on our dedicated Andy Murraysite.

10:31 am: Good morning and welcome to our Wimbledon 2010 live blog, bringing you the latest news and results, gossip and all the important updates weather.

To get you started, we preview Laura Robson's chances of causing an upset against Jelena Jankovic, a Small Talk interview with Elena Baltacha and Serena Williams's thoughts on whether she can win her 13th grand slam title.

On the men 'side of things, Roger Federer promises not to let Switzerland's World Cup exploits distract his pursuit of yet more success at SW19 and an interview with Dustin Brown.

Oh, and a fella called Andy Murray kicks off his bid for a first grand slam title tomorrow. You can read interviews, news and much more on our dedicated Andy Murray site.

Xan Brooks ? Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions| More Feeds

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