Sharapova, Djokovic win at Olympics
WIMBLEDON, England — Thanks to rain, Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams and 20 other women at the Olympics who have yet to complete a singles match could end up on court six consecutive days if they reach the gold medal round.
Sunday showers at Wimbledon forced the postponement of 32 matches and the suspension of four others, meaning just one-quarter of the day’s matches were completed. Rain delays often disrupt Wimbledon’s two-week Grand Slam tournament, but the Olympic event at the All England Club is just nine days.
Play proceeded under the retractable roof on Centre Court, where the sound of pounding rain sometimes drowned out the thud of ball on racket, a split-second indicator for players of how hard the opponent has hit it. Andy Murray, who beat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-3 on the same court where he lost the Wimbledon final, remarked on a few drips near his courtside bag, suggesting there was a leak to be fixed.
Other indoors winners were Maria Sharapova; Julia Goerges of Germany, who upset recent Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland; and No. 5-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
Outside, the rain interrupted matches in mid-stride, forcing groundskeepers to pull the covers onto the courts, then pull them off again when the sun peeked out. Players tumbled onto the slippery grass, sometimes lying prone or squatting for a couple of seconds before climbing to their feet.
Novak Djokovic, who won a bronze medal in 2008, did that a few times during a win over Fabio Fognini of Italy, 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-2. The fast turnaround from Wimbledon a few weeks ago has fueled discussion about how the grass plays underfoot.
“There’s not much you can do about it,” Djokovic said. “There’s an obvious change in the conditions, in the ball bounce, and in the speed of the court as well. We were just talking about it, most of the players actually agree that the bounce is lower, that the grass is maybe a little bit thicker and higher than in Wimbledon.”
As for the dampness, the Serbian said: “Toward the late hours, the evening, it gets a little bit more wet on the court. It wasn’t pleasant, that’s for sure.”
In the next round, Djokovic could face Andy Roddick, a two-time Wimbledon runner-up. The rain pushed back the American’s first-round match until Monday.
Matches involving No. 1 Azarenka of Belarus and Williams, a three-time gold medalist, were also postponed. Also pushed to Monday were doubles matches involving the 2008 gold medal teams, the Williams sisters and Roger Federer-Wawrinka.
Under Wimbledon’s roof, the Olympics moved indoors for the first time since the 1912 Games, and Sharapova made her Olympic debut amid the downpour’s din, beating Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 6-0.
“You hear a little bit of it, but it’s not a big distraction,” Sharapova said. “When you see the schedule and you see your name on Centre Court, you know that your match is going to get done. Knowing what the weather forecast was going to be like today, I was pretty happy.”
There were no issues regarding rain at the 1912 Stockholm Games, played in a pavilion on wood courts painted black. This time the surface is grass, where Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title in 2004 at age 17.
Sharapova completed a career slam last month by winning the French Open, and now hopes to add an Olympic medal. She missed the 2008 Games because of a shoulder injury.
“It took many years to get here, so it’s pretty special,” she said.
Sharapova carried the Russian flag in London’s opening ceremony, and also visited the athletes village, where she said she underestimated her celebrity.
“The biggest mistake I’ve made in a long time was entering the cafeteria,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t walk out eating any food; I barely got an orange juice. It was quite funny. I didn’t sign any autographs; it was just pictures. I felt like a little statue. Everyone was coming up and asking for a picture politely.
“I have so many events I go to and people ask for pictures. But I’ve never been so happy to take pictures.”
Djokovic’s match started after a delay of nearly three hours, and the score was 7-all in the tiebreaker when rain forced another 3½-hour interruption.
When play resumed, Djokovic lost the first two points — and as a result, the set.
“I haven’t played an official match since Wimbledon, so it took me a set and a half to really get into the rhythm,” said Djokovic, seeded No. 2. “Obviously the rain delay affected the game, and I wasn’t sharp enough after the rain delay.”
He dominated the final two sets, however, and committed only one unforced error in the final set.
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