There is an inscription above the players’ entrance to Wimbledon Centre Court which reads “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same”.
It is a Rudyard Kipling quote that has inspired many players over the years including world No 3 Simona Halep, who said those words have had a big impact on her when she first stepped on Centre Court at the All England Club.
A semi-finalist here last year, Halep opens her 2015 Wimbledon journey against Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova on Court 1 on Tuesday. She will certainly be longing to advance and step once again on the hallowed turf of Centre Court though.
Recalling her first time on it, Halep said: “I didn’t know the court before. They said they might change the court before the match. So I went to the Centre Court for first round. It was pretty full, the crowd. So it was amazing.
“I just remember that when you go on court, is like you go in the very nice hotel. It’s like they have carpet on the floor, and the door is really nice. It’s wood and it’s really nice. They have a message up to the door. That made me, like, stronger and more motivated to go on court and to feel good.”
Halep will need all the motivation she can get after suffering a disappointing second round exit at the French Open last month. The 23-year-old has had ups and downs in 2015 and will be looking to recapture her form this fortnight.
“I can say that wasn’t a good clay season for me this year. I was disappointed after I lost in the French Open. I took some days off, home with my family and my friends. I didn’t play tennis for about five days, which was very good,” said Halep.
“I relax myself. I took the pressure off of my head. I just said that I have to enjoy again, just to work hard every day. So I started to work harder more. Now I feel pretty confident that I can play good tennis again.”
Also in action on Tuesday is last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard, who is suffering an inexplicable slump and is a poor 8-13 win-loss this season.
Halep, who lost to Bouchard in the semis here last year, understands the pressure one feels after having a series of tremendous results and having that big breakthrough on tour. She says it’s tough to follow it up.
“It’s difficult to keep going the good results, to feel good every tournament, every year in a row,” explained Halep.
“I did it for two years already. I had good results. And this year, in the beginning had good results as well. But in the middle, I was a little bit maybe tired mentally and maybe that’s why I lost on clay season.
“Genie Bouchard, she always can come back and make good results. Last year she had a good tennis, so she still has it. I think she will come back soon. I think she has the power to come back. Once that she did good results during grand slams, she can do it again.”
Defending champion Petra Kvitova will kick-off proceedings on Centre Court with her opener against Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
Lleyton Hewitt’s Wimbledon career came to an end on Monday in the only way he knows how to – fighting deep into the fifth set before succumbing 3‑6, 6‑3, 4‑6, 6‑0, 11‑9 to Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in the first round.
The two-time grand slam champion and ex-world No1 played his very last singles match at the All England Club – where he triumphed in 2002 – having announced he will be retiring after the 2016 Australian Open.
From fighting back, to diving volleys, to squandering a final set lead, the match felt like it told the story of Hewitt’s career – a career that placed him as one of the game’s greatest ever competitors.
— roger rasheed (@roger_rasheed) June 29, 2015
“I was always going to leave it out there, everything I had in the tank. I certainly did that,” said Hewitt, whose 128-40 win-loss record on grass makes him the second most successful active player on the surface behind Roger Federer.
“I didn’t leave any stone unturned preparing. But also on the match court today. There was a couple of times the match could have gotten away from me at certain stages and I found a way of hanging in there.
“In the end obviously disappointing to lose. I would have loved to have played Novak (Djokovic) in the next round. But Jarkko is a tough competitor and it was never going to be easy.”
Knowing it was his last Wimbledon, Hewitt said he has done everything to soak it all up. He went to Centre Court on Sunday and sat in the stands staring at the turf that witnessed his greatest success.
“Coming back knowing that it’s your last time competing, I’m fortunate that I can have that opportunity to do that. I have tried to soak it up,” said the 34-year-old Aussie.
Nick Kyrgios, one of the young Australians looking to take the baton from Hewitt moving forward, paid tribute to Hewitt and the legacy he will leave behind.
“I think he’s huge,” said Kyrgios, who beat Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (6).
“His attitude and competitiveness I think is second to none. Maybe Rafa (Nadal) and him are the greatest competitors of all time. When you got him still playing Davis Cup, leading the charge, I think when he’s training and you watch that, it’s pretty special. I think it carries a little bit towards us guys.”
There were mixed results for the remaining Aussies yesterday with teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis still suffering from the aftermath of a stomach bug, falling to Leonardo Mayer 7‑6 (7), 7‑6 (3), 6‑4, while former quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Leave it to Novak Djokovic to strike up a conversation with a bird during a match on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
The world No 1 began his title defence on Monday with a steady 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber and it was all under the watchful eye of a bird that interrupted his match more than once – a bird he believes flew all the way from Belgrade to help him out on court.
“From where I come from, from capital of Serbia, Belgrade, there’s a special sparrow bird called jivjum [phonetically spelt]. I believe this bird came all the way from Belgrade to help me,” joked Djokovic of the bird that spent most of the match nearby on the grass.
“But I was feeling for its safety honestly. It just loves tennis, I guess.
— Paul Brown (@pbsportswriter) June 29, 2015
“At one point Kohlschreiber was serving at the advantage side, between the first and second serve, the bird landed literally very close to the sideline. She stayed there until I won that point. So I said ‘be my guest, stay around, if you want’.
“It was funny to see that. We had birds, mostly birds and different animals come in and out from the court. But the sparrow bird from Belgrade really stayed for the entire match.”
Djokovic did not need much help from the lucky bird. After trading breaks early with Kohlschreiber, the highest-ranked non-seed in the draw, the Serb broke again in game 10 to take the lead.
It was a break in the 10th games of the second and third sets as well that gave him the victory and a second round meeting with Finnish lefty Jarkko Nieminen.
Djokovic was happy with his opener and praised his own return against the tricky German but was upset when he was questioned again about illegal coaching following comments from his coach Boris Becker that implied they communicate during matches.
A serbian journalist asks Djokovic if now they’re gonna wanna charge the bird for sending on court messages to him. The LOL.
— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) June 29, 2015
Communication between a player and his coach is strictly prohibited during matches under the ITF and ATP rules but Becker has stated recently that there are ways he can send across a message to Djokovic, who on Sunday had explained that he only receives reassurance from his team during matches rather than actual instructions.
On Monday he was asked about it again and said: “I’m just trying to figure out what you want to achieve with this story. I don’t understand what you really want. Do you want to say I’m cheating, my team?
“If I am breaking any rules or my team does, I would be fined for that, right? The chair umpire would say ‘coaching penalty’, and that’s it. Or the supervisor, or whoever.”
Joining Djokovic in the second round is French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who posted a 6-2, 7-5, 7-6(3) win over Portugal’s Joao Sousa. Wawrinka fired 45 winners against 30 unforced errors and faced zero break points on his own serve.
The Swiss has been the toast of the tennis tour since he blasted past Djokovic to win Roland Garros earlier this month and he revealed the secret behind his powerful shots.
“I keep a very good fitness trainer, Pierre Paganini. We have a specific plan. I’m really happy with what he did with my body and the way he pushed me to get that strong on the tennis court now,” said the 30-year-old world No 4.
“I think my power is coming from my feet and upper body, abs and back. You can see when I put my feet early, the power is really stronger. It’s not completely from the arm, but it’s really whole the body.”
No 5 seed Kei Nishikori survived an epic battle with Italy’s Simone Bolelli to triumph 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a second round with Colombian Santiago Giraldo.
“I knew it was going to be tough, tough one because we played long five sets last year here,” said Nishikori, who is making his seventh Wimbledon appearance. “I knew he’s good on grass. Mentally I was ready, but maybe there was many ups and downs. My serve, and maybe my concentration wasn’t there some moments.”
Making his grand slam singles debut, British wild card Liam Broady came back from two sets down to beat Australian Marinko Matosevic 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Last year’s semi-finalist and No11 seed Grigor Dimitrov rebounded from his first round loss at Roland Garros with a convincing 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 win over Federico Delbonis of Argentina.