Marketa Vondrousova follows in Steffi Graf’s footsteps with early Wimbledon exit

Reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova joined Steffi Graf in the history books after she suffered a shock first-round exit, but Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina cruised into the last 64.

Vondrousova was a surprise winner at the All England Club last year and returned to Centre Court on Tuesday to begin the defence of her crown, but she struggled physically in a 6-4 6-2 defeat to Jessica Bouzas Maneiro in 67 minutes

It made Vondrousova only the second defending women’s Wimbledon champion to crash out in the first round after Graf did in 1994 to Lori McNeil.

Prior to her 2023 success, Vondrousova had only won one main-draw match in SW19 and arrived in the capital after an injury scare in Berlin two weeks ago.

World number six Vondrousova insisted she was fully fit, but had three double-faults in her first service game as she was broken immediately.

Further breaks were exchanged, but Spaniard Bouzas Maneiro, ranked 83rd in the world, sealed the opener inside 40 minutes.

Vondrousova sent down another double-fault at the start of the second to be broken again and appeared to be growing frustrated with her ailing health.

Jessica Bouzas Maneiro looks shocked after winning
Jessica Bouzas Maneiro was a surprise first-round winner (Mike Egerton/PA)

It failed to distract Bouzas Maneiro, who continued to play her shots and the 21-year-old secured a memorable first grand slam victory with a wonderful backhand winner.

Bouzas Maneiro said: “This is one of the most important moments of my life, in my career here on this court, this is amazing.

“The atmosphere here, the tournament is the most beautiful tournament I ever played in my life. So, thank you so much to everyone who came here to watch.”

It was a different story for Vondrousova, who was disconsolate after her title defence came to an abrupt halt.

Steffi Graf exits the court
Steffi Graf was the first defending champion to exit in the first round (PA)

She admitted: “I was really nervous from the morning and everything.

“I think practice was fine. Yeah, today I was a bit scared because of my leg, too. But I don’t think that was the reason.

“I felt nervous from the start. She was also playing a good match. That was kind of tough, too.

“Overall it was very tough. It’s tough feelings also to go back, I feel like everybody just expects you to win maybe. That’s tough, too. I was happy to be back on the Centre Court. It just didn’t go as planned.”

Former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina had no such problems easing into round two.

Elena Rybakina eased past Elena-Gabriela Ruse
Elena Rybakina eased past Elena-Gabriela Ruse (Aaron Chown/PA)

Rybakina, a winner at the All England Club in 2022, raced through with a 6-3 6-1 victory over Elena-Gabriela Ruse after 71 minutes on Court One.

That time was bettered by fifth seed Jessica Pegula after she wiped the floor with compatriot Ashlyn Krueger 6-2 6-0 inside 49 minutes.

World number one Iga Swiatek appeared to have a banana-skin first-round draw against former Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin, but breezed through 6-3 6-4.

Iga Swiatek fist pumps in celebration
Iga Swiatek raced through (Aaron Chown/PA)

“You can say I feel more comfortable (on grass), but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s going to be tough on this court anyway because it’s a grand slam,” four-time French Open winner Swiatek said.

Swiatek’s rapid win meant fans on Court One headed for the exit doors before 7pm as Ons Jabeur, a runner-up in the last two tournaments, was moved from a scheduled Court Two appearance to Court 14, where she thrashed Moyuka Uchijima 6-3 6-1 in 55 minutes.

Caroline Wozniacki marked her first Wimbledon appearance in five years with a straight-sets success over Alycia Parks but 2018 champion Angelique Kerber crashed out to Yulia Putintseva.