LONDON (Reuters) – The 132nd Wimbledon championships began under sunny skies on Monday with play commencing on the outside courts at 1030GMT.
Long queues snaked around the adjacent golf course as fans waited in soaring temperatures for ground admission to a bumper program across 17 courts.
Those lucky enough to hold Center Court tickets were looking forward to watching defending champion Roger Federer launch his bid for a ninth title against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic.
Seven-times champion Serena Williams was also in action on day one as she began her first Wimbledon campaign as mother.
There is no Andy Murray, though, this year, the British favorite withdrawing on the eve of the tournament saying his right hip was still not ready for the rigors of Grand Slam tennis.
Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta will lead the home challenge, hoping to shift the spotlight from the England soccer team’s pursuit of World Cup glory in Russia.
This year’s championships are the 50th since tennis turned professional in 1968. That year Rod Laver and Billy Jean King launched Wimbledon into a new era and both will be honored guests during the fortnight.
Swiss Federer, whose name will forever be with Laver and King in the pantheon of tennis greats, is just a few weeks shy of his 37th birthday but is favorite to retain his title having beaten Marin Cilic in the final a year ago.
Stepping on to the virgin Center Court turf on the opening day is something he never takes for granted though.
“It remains a little bit nerve-wracking in all honesty. It’s a big deal,” Federer said. “Besides the history and the mythical place that it is, you cannot also practise on it.
“The entire atmosphere changes at Wimbledon, and you realize the eyes are on you. But I love it. It’s a massive honor.”
It is 10 years since Wimbledon witnessed by common consent its greatest men’s final — the five-set epic won by Rafael Nadal against Federer.
A decade on and the two old warriors have now shared the last six Grand Slam titles between them and few would bet against them squaring off again a week on Sunday.
Until then there are new stories to be written and new heroes to emerge and if the weather forecasters are correct a glorious fortnight is in store.
(Adds dropped word ‘not’ in paragraph five)
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond