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Alcaraz opens with straight-set win

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London, July 1 Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz had goosebumps walking onto Centre Court before his opening match at Wimbledon on Monday, a 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-2 win over qualifier Mark Lajal.
Lajal proved to be something of a speedbump for Alcaraz, who acknowledged that his 269th-ranked Estonian opponent “surprised me a little bit” on Day 1 at the All England Club.
Alcaraz, who won his third major championship at the French Open three weeks ago, defeated Novak Djokovic in last year’s final on the grass at Wimbledon but said he was still nervous before Monday’s match.
“When I walk into the court, I got goosebumps. I remembered last year. It was a great feeling,” the 21-year-old Spaniard said in his on-court interview.
“But I try not to think about it. It’s a new year – totally different tournament. I have to be focused on my game just to play at the same level as last year if I want to repeat the same (success) as last year.”
Earlier, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka both pulled out of the tournament because of respective shoulder injuries.
Sabalenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, said she was “ heartbroken “ to announce her withdrawal after it became clear in a practice session that she wasn’t ready.
The No. 3 seed was seen as top contender at the All England Club, which has had seven different women win the title in the last seven years.
Azarenka is also a two-time champion at Melbourne Park.
Ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari was among the early winners on Monday, and said after beating McCartney Kessler 6-3, 6-1 that the women’s draw is wide open.
“We could name like 20, 25 girls that could win the tournament right now,” Sakkari said.
Seventh-seeded Jasmine Paolini, the French Open runner-up last month, got past the first round at Wimbledon for the first time on her fourth try. The Italian beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-5, 6-3.
On the men’s side, fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev beat Aleksander Kovacevic 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, and eighth-seeded Casper Ruud defeated Alex Bolt 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4. Unseeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov eliminated No. 19 Nicolas Jarry 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.
Also Monday, former Grand Slam champions Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu were set to play matches at Centre Court.
Raducanu’s scheduled opponent – 22nd-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova – withdrew Monday because of illness. Alexandrova was replaced by Renata Zarazua, a “lucky loser” from the qualifying tournament.
Gauff, who won the US Open last September, closes out the day’s schedule in the main stadium against Caroline Dolehide in an all-American matchup. (AP)

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