Last year's defeated finalist Vera Zvonareva began her quest to go one better in this year's women's singles draw looking like the very embodiment of the thesis she is writing as part of her International Economic Relations course back home in Moscow. The 30,000-word thesis addresses "how to increase the competitiveness of Russian products on the international market" and by racing through the first set 6-0 against 20-year-old American Alison Riske, Zvonareva, the second seed, looked as competitive as could be. A lover of Tolstoy, she knows cannon fodder when she finds it.
But Riske turned out to be anything but. The Pennsylvanian conquered her Court One nerves and surprised both Zvonareva and an appreciative crowd by claiming the second set, 6-3. Zvonareva then broke her opening service game in the deciding set, and looked to be in charge again, but Riske promptly broke back with a formidable combination of power and finesse. But Zvonareva eventually prevailed 6-3 in the final set, and will play her compatriot Elena Vesnina in the second round.
On Centre Court, the former French Open champion (and this year's runner-up at Roland Garros) Francesca Schiavone overcame some exceptionally doughty first-round resistance from a resurgent Jelena Dokic, the Australian former world number four. An enthralling encounter, with some wonderful play by both women, finished 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the Italian's favour. It was some warm-up act. Earlier, there had also been a scare for the No 12 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. The former US Open and French Open champion dropped a set to Zhang Shuai from China, but progressed 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
In the men's draw, there were fewer threats to the pecking order. The sixth seed Tomas Berdych, runner-up last year to Rafa Nadal, got quickly into his considerable stride to dispose of the Italian Filippo Volandri 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Another proven Wimbledon performer, the Frenchman Richard Gasquet, also came through in straight sets. However, Santiago Giraldo did not yield easily. It took Gasquet a shade over two hours to defeat Giraldo 7-5, 6-3, 7-6.
Gasquet's compatriot Gaël Monfils, seeded nine, was another straight-sets winner. Monfils, although a boys' champion here in 2004, has never progressed beyond the third round. He beat Matthias Bachinger of Germany 6-4, 7-6, 6-3, and plays the Slovakian qualifier Grega Zemlija in round two.