Nadal takes centre stage

After wins for Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, it was Rafael Nadal’s turn to begin his Wimbledon campaign today with a first-round match against Germany’s Andreas Beck.

Five-time champion Federer cruised into the second round with a straight-sets win over Dominik Hrbaty yesterday, while Djokovic overcame a lapse in concentration to beat Germany’s Michael Berrer in four sets.

Nadal, tipped by Bjorn Borg to end Federer’s reign at the All Englasnd Club, was expected to enjoy equally straightforward progress against qualifier Beck on centre court.

However, the 22-year-old left-hander did reach the quarter-finals in Halle recently – an event won by Federer – and could provide second seed Nadal with a useful work out as he looks to build on winning his first title on grass at the Artois Championships.

Sixth seed Andy Roddick, twice a beaten finalist, was also in action on Court One against Argentina’s Eduardo Schwank, while fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko was up against Germany’s Benjamin Becker.

Federer needed just one hour and 19 minutes to beat Hrbaty 6-3 6-2 6-2 and send a message to those who had been suggesting he was vulnerable this year.

“I haven’t been reading and I haven’t been listening to what has been said so I haven’t been affected either,” said the world number one, seeking a record sixth straight title in SW19.

“I’ve been working as defending champion, trying to defend the title again. That’s all that mattered to me.

“I came from a good tournament in Halle. I couldn’t do any better than not dropping a set, not dropping a service game, so I feel like I’m right there to do the same thing again this week.”

Federer will face Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the second round, a dangerous player sometimes let down by the mental side of his game.

“Against me, he’s had some issues,” Federer added. “He gave up against me in Miami which surprised me. But he’s a guy I respect a lot. It’s not a whole lot of fun playing against him in the second round of Wimbledon.”

The first day saw two shock results, with seventh seed David Nalbandian and 18th seed Ivo Karlovic dumped out.

Nalbandian reached the final in 2002, losing to Lleyton Hewitt, but was beaten in straight sets by Canada’s Frank Dancevic, while big-serving Croatian Karlovic lost in four sets to unknown German Simon Stadler.

Nalbandian, who also lost 6-1 6-0 to Djokovic in the semi-final of the Artois Championships recently, then gave a strange press conference in which he admitted to being injured, but refused to reveal what the injury was with a series of perfunctory answers.

“I didn’t have many chances in that match. I didn’t play well,” Nalbandian said. “I never thought it was going to be like this. You have that kind of day sometimes. I tried. Every shot I missed, I missed close.

“I couldn’t turn it around. I expected better than this for sure.”

Asked about the injury, he added: “I can’t tell you. There’s no reason to talk for.”

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