Roger Federer revealed that before he went to bed on Sunday night he tried to visualise the best- and worst-case scenarios in his opening match in defence of the men's singles title against Alex Bogdanovic, a British wild card, ranked 295th in the world, yesterday.
There was the bad scene: "Being down, losing - the other guy on fire and me not being able to do anything about it." And there was the good scene: "Playing well, playing good shots."
While sports psychologists always accentuate the positive, the world No 1 from Switzerland was not prepared to take any chances. "I imagine both [scenarios]," Federer explained, "because if I don't do the bad one, too, I'm suddenly in that scenario. Then I have a problem, because I don't know how to get out of it."
Having thought it all through, Federer concentrated on the positive.
"Because I'm playing so well right now, I don't have any doubt in my game," he said. As expected, he won, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0, after 80 minutes.
Lleyton Hewitt, who may play Federer in the semi-finals, did not have to visualise the dark side. He lived through it on the opening day of the tournament last year, when he became the first No 1 seed and the first defending champion to lose in the first round since the start of the professional era, in 1968.
A giant Croatian qualifier by the name of Ivo Karlovic made Hewitt wonder if he was serving to him from a television gantry above Centre Court. After winning the opening set, 6-1, and losing the second set in a tie-break, Hewitt was overwhelmed.
The 23-year-old Australian admitted that the Karlovic experience had crossed his mind as he walked on Court One yesterday to play his opening match against Jürgen Melzer, of Austria. Shortly before that, however, Hewitt had a minor distraction. He was told that Gary Ayres had been sacked as coach to the Adelaide Crows, Hewitt's beloved Aussie Rules football team.
It was not that Ayres had brought glory to the Crows. What was unusual was that the coach had lost his job mid-season. "I don't know the full bit about it," Hewitt shrugged. "What can I say?"
Hewitt pushed the Crows and Karlovic out of his head and replaced them with a positive outlook throughout: "Only had one point to defend, so I wasn't worried about my ranking taking a dive anyway."
One hour and 44 minutes later, Hewitt advanced to the second round, having defeated Melzer, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. Asked afterwards what had pleased him most, Hewitt smiled and said: "That I got off before the rain."
Federer was also able to dodge the showers, although Bogdanovic admitted that he was "begging for rain" and thinking, "take me out of here, so I get another chance to walk back out there again".
The 20-year-old Bogdanovic lost the opening set after being broken for 3-1, but managed to create two break points in the fifth game of the second set, with Federer leading 3-1. Bogdanovic hit a backhand return long on the first opportunity and missed a forehand volley on the second. After that, Federer could only visualise a successful start to his campaign.
Melzer, a left-hander, like Bogdanovic, was frustrated almost as much by line calls as he was by Hewitt's confident play. At times, the 23-year-old Austrian seemed on the verge of paranoia. He would sometimes stand his ground and look in disbelief when his shots were ruled out, and frequently disputed decisions with the umpire, Steve Ullrich, who assured him there was no conspiracy.
It did not help Melzer's mood that he was unable to convert any of four break points he held against Hewitt in the third game of the opening set - particularly as the Australian went on to win 11 points in a row to lead 5-1.
The second set was close until Hewitt began to torture Melzer with lobs as well as ground-strokes. The Austrian could only watch the ball float over his head and land inside the baseline for 0-40 in the ninth game. Melzer then hit a forehand long on the second break point.
After Hewitt served out the set in the next game, Melzer strode to his chair, threw his racket on the ground, and walked off the court for a bathroom break.
When Hewitt hit a backhand return past Melzer for 1-1, 15-40, the Austrian let out his familiar shout of "Come on!" Melzer double-faulted on the first break point.
He then picked up another ball and tried to belt it out of the court. The ball ended up in the guttering, and Melzer received a warning.
Britain's Davis Cup team are due to face the talented, temperamental Melzer on his home ground in the World Group qualifying round next September, so yesterday's histrionics will have been noted.
"He shows a bit of emotion out there," Hewitt said. "I guess if you get some dodgy bounces, you've got to be able to deal with those situations. He was frustrated. A couple of lets didn't get called, and he thought he had a couple of bad calls. I just felt things were rolling along nicely for me , and I didn't have to change a helluva lot throughout the whole three sets."
Hewitt was watched yesterday by his parents, who were in the guest box, and by his fiancée, Kim Clijsters, who was with friends in the players' area.
Clijsters had an operation to remove a cyst from her left wrist a week ago. Her forearm will be in a cast for six weeks, after which she is expected to have six weeks of rehabilitation. She therefore will miss the US Open, which starts at the end of August.
Her comeback in due to take place in her native Belgium on 27 September at a new WTA tournament, the Stars Hasselt.
In the meantime, Clijsters will support Hewitt and probably wonder how much of an impact she might have made in the women's singles. And perhaps visualise future contests.Reuse content