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Djokovic, Osaka share centre stage on Wimbledon opening day

By AFP
media

Defending champion Novak Djokovic shares centre stage on Centre Court with Naomi Osaka on Monday as Wimbledon gets underway.

Top seed and world number one Djokovic is seeking a fifth Wimbledon and 16th major as the Serb attempts to bounce back from his shattering Roland Garros exit.

His five-set semi-final loss to Dominic Thiem ended his hopes of becoming just the second man in history to hold all four majors at the same time on two occasions.

On Monday, he opens proceedings on Centre Court against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber.

It will be their fourth meeting in 2019 -- 35-year-old Kohlschreiber winning at Indian Wells before Djokovic triumphed at Monte Carlo and Rome.

"I am fine-tuning. I'm working on my movement. I'm working on the right balance on the court, trying to execute the shots, take short balls, come in," said Djokovic, who was also Wimbledon champion in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

Djokovic has added 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic to his team following a call out of the blue.

"It's all unusual, a rather unexpected call came a few days ago," Ivanisevic told Serbian reporters at the All England Club, according to sports channel sportklub online.

"Unfortunately it seems I will be able to stay only for the first week since I have obligations. I'm trying to postpone them," he said, adding that "when Novak Djokovic calls you, you put many things aside."

Japanese second seed Osaka, the US and Australian Open winner, lost her world top ranking to Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty recently.

However, the 21-year-old was not too upset by the new order after complaining in Paris that she was suffering from stress and headaches as she exited in the third round.

Osaka could be facing another stressful afternoon on Monday when she starts her campaign against Yulia Putintseva who has a 2-0 career hold over the Japanese.

One of those wins came on grass in Birmingham less than two weeks ago.

Osaka has yet to get past the third round at Wimbledon although her two previous visits saw defeats to 2018 champion Angelique Kerber and five-time champion Venus Williams.

Venus, now 39, first played at the All England Club in 1997.

Her opponent on Court One on Monday, 15-year-old compatriot Cori Gauff was still seven years away from being born.

Gauff is the youngest player ever to have qualified for Wimbledon and comes into the tournament ranked at 313 in the world.

She needed a wild card to play in qualifying while juggling her high school tests in the evening.

"She's an exciting young player, and she's so cool," said Venus's sister Serena of Gauff.

"She's a great girl. It's a great moment for her and for Venus."

Elsewhere on Monday, women's third seed Karolina Pliskova, fresh from beating Wimbledon champion Kerber in the Eastbourne final on Saturday, faces China's Zhu Lin.

Pliskova has never got beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon.

Fellow former world number one Simona Halep, the deposed French Open champion, made the semi-finals at the All England Club in 2014.

The Romanian ninth seed starts against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.

'NextGen' stars Alexander Zverev, seeded six, and seventh-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas face Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic and Italy's Thomas Fabbiano respectively.

Kevin Anderson, the 2018 runner-up, is seeded four this year but has been battling an elbow injury.

The giant South African, who last year featured in the second longest match ever played at Wimbledon when he overcame John Isner in a 6-hour 36-minute semi-final, starts Monday against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.

 
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