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AEGON Championships: Sign of the climes

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Originally published on: 06/06/11 17:03

It’s funny how quickly the scene changes. Yesterday, in Paris, the best player in the world (for now) defeated the best player there’s ever been (perhaps also for now) amid a backdrop of brilliant red. Today – less than 24 hours later – the surface is lush green, the trimmings are vibrant blue, the chatter lacks yesterday’s accented twang and there’s a reserved politeness in the air. The only constant, it seems, is the murky, grey clouds that hang overhead. 

Responsible for the scene change courtside, of course, is the prestigious AEGON Championships, the sign that the short-but-ever-so-sweet grass court season is back on our grateful British doorstep.

Feliciano Lopez was the first to put the dirt behind him and make his mark on the picture perfect Baron’s Court grass that for this year’s tournament, as ever, has been lovingly trimmed to a height of just 7mm. Embracing the surface change by wearing brilliant white from head to toe, the Spaniard survived a testing opener to defeat Dmitry Tursunov 7-6 6-3 and set up an unenviable second round clash with four-time Queen’s champ Andy Roddick. The opener wasn’t without teething problems – the scoreboard broke, as did umpire Mohammed Leylani’s microphone – but those issues were quickly forgotten after Lopez had won when six-time Grand Slam champ Stefan Edberg took to court for an interview with John Inverdale.

“I’m still playing tennis once in a while,” said the Swede, who turned to business and finance after retiring from the sport but admits he still plays once a week. “It’s a different lifestyle, but I still feel pretty good [on court].”

Nicolas Mahut followed the 1991 Queen’s champion on to the turf and scored a straight sets victory over Britain’s Oliver Golding. “It’s not one of my favourite tournaments – it IS my favourite tournament,” said the Frenchman afterwards. Mahut, who defeated Rafael Nadal en route to reaching the Queen’s final in 2007, might’ve felt deserving of a little more love from the British crowd (particularly given his part in last year’s Wimbledon epic that finished 70-68 in the fifth set) but the partisan crowd instead got behind home grown 17-year-old Oliver Golding, who impressed despite a 6-3 6-4 defeat.

“It was unbelievable,” said the world No.982. “The crowd were great today. They got behind me and I enjoyed every second of it.”

Meanwhile, Sam Querrey began the defence of his Queen’s title with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win over Kei Nishikori, while Ivan Ljubicic made the most of his brutish first serve to dispatch America’s Ryan Sweeting in straight sets.

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