Federer and Sharapova through at Wimbledon

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The new roof wasn't tested. Roger Federer was - briefly.

The retractable roof stayed opened today for the opening match on Centre Court at Wimbledon, and Federer fell behind early before charging past Yen-hsun Lee of Taiwan, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

Federer failed to convert his first four break-point chances, then lost serve to trail 3-2. But he immediately broke back, broke again in the final game of the first set and dominated from there.

Bidding for his sixth Wimbledon title, Federer won for the 41st time in his past 42 matches at the All England Club. The lone loss came in last year's final to Rafael Nadal, a match hailed by some as the sport's best ever.

Play began in cloudy but dry weather. When it rains, the translucent roof on the 87-year-old stadium will be closed so the match can continue.

Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, rallied by winning the final four games of the first set and beat qualifier Viktoriya Kutuzova 7-5, 6-4. Sharapova, making a comeback from shoulder surgery last October, saved a set point in the opening set with a forehand winner and later shook off two spills behind the baseline.

The first seeded player to lose was No. 17 James Blake, who was beaten by Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (5). Blake failed to convert a set point in the third set and squandered a 5-love lead in the tiebreaker.

Blake also lost in the first round at the French Open last month.

Federer emerged sporting a sleek new white warmup outfit with gold trim that included a jacket with a turned-up collar, a vest, slacks and two-toned shoes. The crowd roared when he walked onto the court, and he responded with a wave and smile. There were more cheers — and a few whistles of approval — when he removed his jacket to reveal the vest.

By the time the match started, Federer had stripped down to shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. He was given the honor of playing first on Centre Court after defending men's champion Nadal withdrew Friday because of sore knees.

The No. 2-seeded Federer is a strong favorite to win a record-breaking 15th major title.

Like Federer, Venus Williams is also looking for a sixth Wimbledon title.

When Williams first played here in 1997, Wimbledon had a much different look, and not only because there's now a retractable roof. The field looked much different, too — none of the 16 women to reach the fourth round is still active.

Williams, who was then 17, lost in the opening round. This year, at 29, she's the oldest player in the top 10 and the tournament favorite, seeking her third Wimbledon title in a row.

"In previous years I have had just a great feeling at this tournament," Williams said on Sunday. "And I'm looking forward to having that feeling again."

In 1997, Williams was part of a generation of teen prodigies that broadened the popularity of women's tennis. The group included Martina Hingis, who won Wimbledon that year, and Anna Kournikova, who made the semifinals. Both were 16. Other quarterfinalists included Mary Joe Fernandez, Jana Novotna and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

A year later, Serena Williams made her Wimbledon debut. The sisters are well aware of how much the cast has changed since.

"Serena and I often talk about that: 'Wonder what happened to them,"' Venus said. "We're still here, and we're not leaving. It has been a real blessing to have the success that we've had and to be able to be still playing great tennis at this point, obviously with the outlook of still playing great tennis for years to come. I don't see anything changing for a while."

At times, the sisters have made Wimbledon the Williams Open. Serena was the champion in 2002 and 2003 and lost to Venus in last year's final. The only non-Williams to win the women's title in this decade were Sharapova in 2004 and Amelie Mauresmo in 2006.

Venus has been so dominant that she's a 3-1 favorite with London bookmakers, even though she's seeded third and has won only five of her past nine matches. She'll play in the opening round Tuesday against 19-year-old Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland.