Hello and welcome to day one of Wimbledon 2019! And a very good day to you too, unless you happen to be Rafael Nadal, who was seen being frogmarched into one of the re-education holding pens they have under Centre Court by a stern-looking All England Club official. Constructed specially this year, costing a cool £23.6m to build, the centre has been put in place to deal with dissenting voices such as Nadal, who’s in dire need of a large dose of SW19 nostalgia after all that complaining about the seeding formula they use here. Mark my words, he’ll be back to gushing about strawberries and cream once he’s finished watching the three-hour highlights reel of Tim Henman’s very best volleys, complete with a Sue Barker voiceover of course
Naughty Rafa, though! All that whinging about being shunted down to No3 seed to make way for Roger Federer. It’s Wimbledon. They can do whatever they want. If they want Kyle Edmund Centre Court, they get Kyle Edmund on Centre Court. You can complain all you like about the fact Edmund’s seeded 30th and hasn’t done much all year, but he’s the British No1, so he gets the prime slot. He’s on third on Centre against the tricky Spaniard, Jaume Munar.
Munar’s from Mallorca. Rafa Nadal’s from Mallorca! But that’s enough Nadal chat for now. Despite the seed furore Nadal has at least ended up on the opposite side of the draw to Novak Djokovic, who begins his defence of his title with a tough one against the experienced German, Phillipp Kohlschreiber, in the first match on Centre Court. Djokovic is bidding for his fifth Wimbledon title, which would bring him level with Bjorn Borg, and his 16th major. But he has lost to Kohlschreiber this year and endured semi-final disappointment when he met Dominic Thiem at the French Open last month. Caution is advisable.
Might there be a day of upsets, then? The second match on Centre sees Naomi Osaka face the pugnacious Kazakh, Yulia Putintseva, who might fancy her chances of upsetting the world No2. Osaka is the Australian Open and US Open champion, but she’s been troubled by injury of late, lost early in the French Open and is uncomfortable on grass.
As ever, you never know what to expect from the women. Simona Halep, the seventh seed, opens on Court 1 against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and suffered an early exit last year. And in the last match of the day on that venue, a potential firecracker: Venus Williams, the brilliant veteran champion, in an all-American tussle with the potential future of US tennis, the precociously talented Cauri “Coco” Gauff, at 15 the youngest player ever to qualify for the main draw here.
The first round offers so many delights. Look around and you’ll see Felix Auger-Aliassime, seeded 19th despite possessing no grand slam record, against another Canadian, Vasek Pospisil. There’s Kevin Anderson, a beaten finalist last year, up against Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Andy Murray’s doubles partner. Stefanos Tsitsipas against Thomas Fabbiano. Stan Wawrinka against Ruben Bemelmans. Grigor Dimitrov on Court 15. Poor Grigor!
There’s the power of Jelena Ostapenko, unseeded despite winning the French Open two years ago, against the wiles of Hsieh Su-wei. Caroline Wozniacki against Sara Sorribes Tormo. An intriguing unseeded battle between Alize Cornet and Victoria Azarenka. Marketa Vondrousva, beaten in the French Open final by Ash Barty, against the USA’s Madison Brengle. And let’s not forget Britain’s Heather Watson trying to prove she deserves her main draw wild card when she faces the USA’s Madison Brengle.
Come on, Rafa! Turn that frown upside down.
Play begins at: 11am BST on the outside courts, 1pm BST on the show courts.