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Alcaraz, Sinner win Wimbledon openers as Sabalenka pulls out

Champion in action: Carlos Alcaraz celebrates winning a point against Estonia's Mark Lajal (Glyn KIRK)
Champion in action: Carlos Alcaraz celebrates winning a point against Estonia's Mark Lajal (Glyn KIRK)

Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz and world number one Jannik Sinner reached the Wimbledon second round on Monday as Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka withdrew with an injury.

As Alcaraz and Sinner, two of the men at the vanguard of tennis's new generation moved on, 37-year-old Andy Murray kept his fans guessing over his participation at the All England Club.

Alcaraz defeated dreadlocked 269th-ranked qualifier Mark Lajal of Estonia 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 6-2, recovering from breaks down in the first two sets.

The Spaniard, still only 21, is chasing his fourth Grand Slam title and hopes to become just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back.

- 'Surprised me' -

"He played a really good match, he obviously surprised me a little bit because I didn't have the chance to see him play a lot," said Alcaraz after opening the programme on Centre Court.

This time last year, Lajal was losing a first-round match at a second-tier Challenger event in the United States and earning a paltry $780 -- on Monday he banked $75,000.

Sinner overcame a mid-match wobble to see off the challenge of Germany's Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a match against 2021 finalist and compatriot Matteo Berrettini.

"He played really well, he was serving well, I missed a couple of shots," said Sinner, a semi-finalist last year.

Murray, champion in 2013 and 2016, had been expected to make a decision over whether or not he will play singles at his farewell Wimbledon.

The former world number one underwent surgery to remove a cyst on his spine last week and admitted he still has not fully recovered feeling in his leg.

Murray will, however, now make a decision on Tuesday, with schedulers giving him the final slot on Centre Court for his match against Tomas Machac to allow him more time to make up his mind.

- 'Heartbroken' -

Two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabalenka, ranked third in the world, is one of eight players to have pulled out since the draw was made.

She had admitted she was not 100 percent fit after suffering a shoulder injury at the Berlin Open.

"Heartbroken to have to tell you all that I won't be able to play the Championships this year," wrote 26-year-old Sabalenka on X.

China's world number eight Zheng Qinwen, the Australian Open runner-up, was the biggest casualty of the day, losing in the first round for a second successive year.

Zheng went down 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 to New Zealand qualifier Lulu Sun, who celebrated her first Grand Slam match win.

Both Sabalenka and Zheng were potential semi-final opponents for US Open champion and second-ranked Coco Gauff, who eased past compatriot Caroline Dolehide 6-1, 6-2.

Former world number one Naomi Osaka claimed her first win at Wimbledon since 2018 when she recovered from a break down in the final set to defeat Diane Parry of France 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.

Four-time Grand Slam title winner Osaka fired 34 winners in the tie, which was decided when Parry served up her 10th double fault.

Victory was extra special for Osaka as it comes a day before her daughter Shai celebrates her first birthday.

"It feels like a dream because I haven't played here many times," said Osaka, whose last appearance at the All England Club was in 2019, when she exited in the first round.

Russian men's fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, a semi-finalist last year, hit 16 aces in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Aleksandar Kovacevic of the United States.

- Parasite pain for Ruud -

"I've still never lost on Court One so hopefully I can play a lot more matches on this court," said Medvedev.

"Last year I said it was unfortunate I had to go to Centre Court for the semis and I lost."

Eighth seed Casper Ruud saw off Alex Bolt of Australia in straight sets and revealed he had been laid low by a parasite since reaching the French Open semi-finals.

"I was mostly in bed for 10, 11 days, which was not what I was kind of hoping for," said the Norwegian.

Three-time Grand Slam title winner Stan Wawrinka won his Wimbledon opener at the age of 39, beating British wild card Charles Broom 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

"I think there is enough reason to keep playing. I don't want to go home," said Wawrinka.

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