Tennis: Wimbledon gates swing open in bright sunshine

Reuters , Monday 29 Jun 2015

Spectators wait to be allowed in on as they arrive for the first day's play at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, June 29, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

The All England Club gates swung open a week later than usual for the start of the 129th Wimbledon Championships on Monday with sunshine greeting the world's top players and fans streaming in to watch them.

Men's defending champion Novak Djokovic was due to open proceedings on Centre Court -- his first competitive match since losing the French Open final to Stanislas Wawrinka.

Sixteen grand slam champions start in the men's and women's singles, with several featuring a packed opening day schedule, including Wawrinka and Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt who will be making his final bow at the tournament he won in 2002.

Defending women's champion Petra Kvitova will begin her quest for a third Wimbledon title on Tuesday but for a headline act on day one they do not come much bigger than American five-times champion Serena Williams.

The 33-year-old Williams, world number one, is favorite to depose Kvitova and raise her tally of grand slam singles titles to 21.

She faces 113th-ranked Russian Margarita Gasparyan on Court One and should not be detained too long.

Djokovic, on the other hand, faces a stern examination against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber -- the world number 33 who once beat him in straight sets at the French Open.

The Serb, who denied Wimbledon king Roger Federer a record eighth title last year in a memorable final, chose not to take advantage of a longer than usual grasscourt season, re-charging his batteries rather than play a warm-up event.

Hewitt, playing at his 17th Wimbledon, takes on Finland's Jarkko Nieminen on Court Two -- the bowl-like third show court that will be a magnet for Australian fans throughout the day with Nick Krygios also in action a year after causing a seismic shock by beating twice champion Rafa Nadal.

Even those without showcourt tickets will be well-rewarded for waiting in the snaking queues from dawn at the start of one of the most eagerly-anticipated days of a vintage British sporting summer that features an Ashes cricket series and the British Open golf in quick succession.

The All England Club's classy upgrades over the last 10 years have turned it into a magnificent venue for watching top-level tennis in an English country garden setting.

From the hill now known now as "Murray Mound" -- in honor of the nation's great hope Andy who will begin his campaign on Tuesday -- to the Pimms and strawberry stands providing refreshment, it is the place to be seen.

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