That was week one that was: Opening ace to parting shot

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The Independent Online

THE DREAM START: At 1.08pm on Monday defending champion Roger Federer launched the 2006 Championships against Richard Gasquet - with a screaming ace. Cue bets on him finishing the 2006 Championships in exactly the same way on Sunday 9 July.

THE INEVITABLE CONSEQUENCE: Just 35 minutes later the ground staff hurtled on to cover all the courts as the first rain of Wimbledon 2006 hit the hallowed turf. Six hours later the first day was abandoned without another ball being hit, costing the All England Club some £1m in refunds as play did not pass the magic hour mark.

THE HENMAN ROLLERCOASTER: The ride was somewhat shorter than normal this year. Our hero took to Court One on Tuesday against Robin Soderling, ranked some 20 places above him, and led the crowd through five sets of ups, downs, twists and turns before reaching the second round - and the task of facing Federer the next day. The Swiss master was in uncharitable mood, allowing Henman just five points in the second set and six games in all in a straight-sets dispatch. "I'll be back," said Henman.

BEAUTIFUL SOUTH: It was left to a wild card ranked 305 in the world, the 20-year-old Melanie South, to lead the British revival as she finished off the world No 14 and 11th seed, Francesca Sciavone of Italy, with a thumping ace. Middlesbrough's Sarah Boswell, 26, beat Poland's Marta Domachowski, ranked 183 places above her. Martin Lee, the 28-year-old left-hander from London, completed the day's festivities by becoming Britain's third male wild-card survivor.

ACTION AND REACTION: And then there was one, Andy Murray, as all Wednesday's British singles heroes became Thursday's zeroes. Rafael Nadal, the No 2 seed, nearly joined them in the reject pile before wobbling to a five-set win against an American qualifier, Robert Kendrick. And the women's champion, Venus Williams, was two points from defeat before pulling herself together against 32-year-old fellow American Lisa Raymond. A rather better-known thirty-something from the US, Andre Agassi, bowed to the Court One crowd after setting up yesterday's appointment with Nadal.

SWISS DISMISSED: Martina Hingis returned to the Centre Court on Friday for the first time in six years, but for the last time this year, losing in the third round to Ai Sugiyama of Japan. The Belgian No 2 and No 3 seeds, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, marched on in straight sets, but the men's No 4 seed, David Nalbandian, became the biggest name to fall, beaten in straight sets by the 22-year-old Spaniard Fernando Verdasco after requesting a noon start so that he could watch Argentina's World Cup. Whoops. And the No 8 seed, James Blake, was savaged by the Beast of Belarus, Max Mirnyi.

SIZE DOESN'T MATTER: Lleyton Hewitt proved yesterday that you don't have to be huge to progress when he raced to victory over Olivier Rochus of Belgium. But then Rochus is only 5ft 5in... Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic, seeded No 5, blew a two-set lead to lose to the Russian Dmitry Tursunov.

CELTIC MIST: Andy Roddick is no slouch as a tennis player, but his geography leaves something to be desired. Commenting on the suggestion that his third-round opponent, Andy Murray, might soon be coming under the coaching wing of the American Brad Gilbert, he said: "There is no doubt Brad's a great coach, but California and Ireland are a long way apart."

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