London - Roger Federer and Serena Williams bring the curtain
up on Wimbledon on Monday with the All England Club confident their tournament
can comfortably capture the imagination of a public distracted by the Soccer World
Federer, the record eight-time champion, opens proceedings
on Centre Court against Serbia's Dusan Lajovic.
Williams, meanwhile, has been shunted off to Court One where
she tackles Dutch outsider Arantxa Rus.
The American returns to the tournament for the first time
since claiming a seventh title in 2016 having missed last year to give birth to
"I think it remains a little bit nerve-wracking. It's a
big deal," said Federer on returning to Centre Court and who is marking
the 15th anniversary of his first Wimbledon title in 2003.
"Besides the history and the mythical place that it is,
you cannot also practice on it.
"The entire atmosphere changes at Wimbledon, and you
realise the eyes are on you."
World number 57 Lajovic will know what to expect - the Serb
was beaten by Federer in straight sets in the second round of Wimbledon in
Federer is the overwhelming favourite to lift a ninth title
and 21st career major especially with old rival Rafael Nadal, fresh from an
11th French Open, not having played a grass court warm-up event.
The 36-year-old Swiss star's odds also improved when
two-time champion Ansy Murray withdrew on Sunday with injury.
Three-time winner Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, is still
struggling with form and confidence so badly bruised by the elbow injury he
suffered at Wimbledon 12 months ago.
However, even Federer cannot escape the giant shadow cast on
the sporting landscape by the ongoing World Cup.
He was even dragged into a discussion on Sunday over whether
or not he and Nadal - 10 years after their epic All England Club final - could
be likened to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Sure, yeah. They have a long-standing rivalry. I have
the same with Rafa," Federer said.
"They're very different from one another. I guess
there's some similarities there as well."
The All England Club will stick to its policy of refusing to
show World Cup matches on its giant screen adjacent to Court One.
The men's final, meanwhile, will still start at 14:00 as scheduled on Sunday, July 15 - just two hours before the World Cup
final kicks off in Moscow.
Williams, seeded 25 this year despite a ranking of 181, has
never played Rus, the world 107 who made the third round in 2012 but failed to
get out of qualifying on her last three visits.
Monday's other Centre Court matches see Australian Open
champion Caroline Wozniacki face Varvara Lepchenko of the United States.
Bulgarian sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov, a semi-finalist in
2014, completes the programme against three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka.
Also getting their campaigns underway on Monday are
five-time women's champion Venus Williams against Johanna Larsson.
Third seeded Marin Cilic, the runner-up to Federer in 2017
and this year's Queen's champion, takes on Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka.