Baseline Buzz: First-day flurry


LONDON -- There are millions of tennis players in this world, but here at the All England Club it's only the creme de la creme, along with all those luscious strawberries from nearby Kent.

The best of the best are in a different area code all together, but once you get past the top 10, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish the great from merely good. Monday was a typically rollicking first day at Wimbledon, with a number of surprises.

For instance: Reigning Australian Open champion Li Na looked like she was going to lose the first set to an unknown qualifier from Poland, but rallied to win in straight sets. Victoria Azarenka, playing only her second match since March, also seemed a bit dusty but eventually overcame Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. The 2011 US Open champion and No. 17 seed, Samantha Stosur, continued her poor performances in majors, losing 6-3, 6-4 to Yanina Wickmayer.

The one big takeaway? It was not good to be a No. 18 seed. Not long after Sloane Stephens checked out in 99 minutes at the hands of Maria Kirilenko, the No. 18 seed on the men's side departed as well. Fernando Verdasco fell to Marinko Matosevic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

"Tennis is like this," Verdasco said later. "I tried to play my best. I didn't. That's it. I cannot say anything else."

Oh, but we can. tennis editor Matthew Wilansky and writer Greg Garber muse over another frenetic first day at the season's third Grand Slam.

Greg Garber: What's going on with Stosur? The 30-year-old from Sydney, Australia, played the match of her life in that US Open, embarrassing Serena Williams, but what has she done for us lately? In the 10 majors since winning that first and only Slam, Stosur has now lost in the first round three times and has been out by the third on seven occasions. Wickmayer is ranked No. 69 among WTA players, and now it looks like Stosur, who has been slowed by a calf injury, might be out of the top 10 for good.

Matt Wilansky: Fitting that on the day Murray and Mauresmo -- two players known for the history of yips -- made their Slam debut, it was Slammin' Sammy, another player who has battled nerves for a good part of her career, lost. But all in all, this day could have gone a lot worse for some big names. Tomas Berdych dropped his opening set before subduing Victor Hanescu in four. Venus Williams went the distance before prevailing, as did No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova, who foiled 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm's dreams. But don't scorn Date-Krumm; she was already 18 years old when her opponent was born. Good for her just for showing up.

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