Nadal kills curse of 100 club at Wimbledon as Kvitova crashes

by Dave JAMES
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Opening up: Rafael Nadal plays first match on Centre Court

World number one Rafael Nadal breezed into the Wimbledon second round Tuesday but fellow two-time champion and title favourite Petra Kvitova crashed out.

Nadal cruised to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Israel's Dudi Sela as the Spaniard returned to action for the first time since claiming his 11th French Open title.

Nadal, the Wimbledon champion in 2008 and 2010, also managed to avoid falling victim to a player ranked outside the world top 100 for what would have been the fifth time in his last six visits to the All England Club.

"It's great always to play here in Wimbledon, especially on Centre Court," said Nadal after seeing off world number 127 Sela.

"I'm just happy to be through of course and yes, this match gives me positive feelings."

Nadal, the 17-time major winner, has not got past the fourth round since finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2011.

Eight seed Kvitova, who was the bookmakers' favourite to add the 2018 title to her 2011 and 2014 victories, was stunned 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 by unheralded Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the world number 50.

Kvitova has won five titles in 2018, including the grass-court tournament at Birmingham last weekend, while amassing an WTA Tour-leading 38 match victories.

"When I was kind of younger, I played better on the Grand Slams than the other tournaments. Now is the time when I'm playing better on the other tournaments than the Grand Slams," she said.

"So I make a promise that I going to be very patient and I going to try to break it again for the other side."

Kvitova is the fourth top 10 women's seed to lose in the first round.

Number four Sloane Stephens and fifth seeded Elina Svitolina were eliminated on Monday.

France's Caroline Garcia, seeded six, was also beaten Tuesday, going down 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 to Switzerland's Belinda Bencic.

There was also similar carnage in the men's top 10.

After sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov was sent packing on Monday, it was the turn of Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem and Belgium's David Goffin to pack their bags.

Austrian seventh seed Thiem retired with a back injury against Cypriot veteran Marcos Baghdatis, trailing 6-4, 7-5, 2-0.

Goffin, the 10th seed, slumped to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Australia's Matthew Ebden.

Argentine fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro made it nine first round wins in nine appearances at the tournament, easing past Germany's Peter Gojowczyk 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

Del Potro, who made the semi-finals in 2013, next faces Feliciano Lopez of Spain who on Tuesday set a record of playing 66 consecutive Grand Slams when he eased past Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Left-handed Lopez made his debut at the majors at the 2001 French Open.

On Tuesday, the 36-year-old broke the record for straight Slams which was previously held by Roger Federer.

"When I was about to break the record, I thought, wow, I'm going to beat Federer at something!" joked the 70th-ranked Lopez who has lost all 13 matches he has played against Federer in his career.

German fourth seed Alexander Zverev beat world number 748 James Duckworth of Australia 7-5, 6-2, 6-0.

World number one Simona Halep started her challenge for a first Wimbledon title with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Japan's Kurumi Nara.

Halep has arrived at the All England Club on a high after finally winning her maiden Grand Slam crown at the French Open last month.

She will face China's Zheng Saisai in the second round.

Spain's Garbine Muguruza opened her title defence with a 6-2, 7-5 win over British wild card Naomi Broady.

Third seed Muguruza, 24, next faces Belgium's Alison Van Uytvanck.

Australia's Nick Kyrgios, who famously stunned Nadal at the tournament in 2014, marked his 50th match at the majors with a 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

Kyrgios, seeded 15, hammered down 42 aces and unleashed 78 winners.

Eugenie Bouchard, the runner-up in 2014 before her career went into a tailspin, reached the second round with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 victory over British wild card Gabriella Taylor.

Bouchard, now ranked 188 in the world, will face fellow former Wimbledon junior champion Ashleigh Barty for a spot in the last 32.

Later Tuesday, former champions Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova begin their Wimbledon campaigns.

Three-time winner Djokovic starts against Tennys Sandgren of the United States, returning to the tournament which ended in an injury-enforced quarter-final withdrawal 12 months ago.

Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion and five-time major winner, returns to the tournament for the first time since 2015.

The former world number one missed the 2016 event as she served a doping ban and was injured last year when she was planning to appear in the qualifying event.

Sharapova, seeded 24, starts against fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko, ranked at 132 and who came through qualifying.

Power ranger: Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Dudi Sela

Down and out: Petra Kvitova

Out of the shadows: Eugenie Bouchard serves to Gabriella Taylor