Alcaraz starts dominant at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON – Carlos Alcaraz began the defense of his title in the tournament Wimbledonwinning 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-1 on Monday against Estonian Mark Lajal.

As the reigning champion, the 21-year-old Spaniard enjoyed the privilege of taking the first step onto the immaculate grass of the legendary Centre Court.

Aryna Sabalenka’s injury has overshadowed her performance on the first day of the grass-court Grand Slam.

Sabalenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, was nursing a shoulder injury. The Belarusian said she was “heartbroken” after a practice session and was not in optimal condition to play.

The third seed was tipped as a leading contender for the women’s title at the All England Club, which has produced seven different champions in the past seven years.

Alcaraz beat Novak Djokovic last year and last month won his first French Open title to claim his third major title.

The world number three used his experience to beat Lajal, number 269 in the ranking who made it through the qualifying round, in a matter of 2 hours and 24 minutes.

“Coming onto this court, the most beautiful I’ve ever played on,” Alcaraz said. “I still get nervous when I play here… I’m privileged to be able to do it.”

Greek ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari was one of the day’s early winners, saying after beating McCartney Kessler 6-3, 6-1 that the women’s draw was wide open.

Seventh seed Jasmine Paolini, a finalist at last month’s French Open, advanced past the first round at Wimbledon on her fourth attempt. The Italian beat Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-5, 6-3.

In the men’s draw, Russian Daniil Medvedev (5th seed) defeated Aleksander Kovacevic 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, and Norwegian Casper Ruud (8) beat Alex Bolt 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4. Canadian Denis Shapovalov eliminated Chilean Nicolas Jarry (19th) 6-1, 7-5, 6-4.