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Defending Wimbledon champ Elena Rybakina rallies to advance

Defending Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina came from a set down on Centre Court to defeat American Shelby Rogers 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the first round on Tuesday.

Ons Jabeur, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, made a solid start to her bid to capture a maiden Grand Slam title as the world No. 6 eased past unseeded Pole Magdalena Frech 6-3, 6-3 to reach the second round.

Watched by record eight-time Wimbledon men’s champion Roger Federer in the Royal Box, Rybakina looked to still be suffering from the illness that forced her out of the French Open last month when she was broken in the first game.

Rogers powered through the first set but the third-seeded Rybakina roared back in the second, showing the kind of strength and composure she utilized to claim her first Grand Slam title in London last year.

Rogers, 30, ranked 49th in the world, was broken in the first game of the decider by a stinging forehand down the line by Rybakina, who successfully overturned the decision to call the ball out.

The 2022 champion never looked back, with another break coming in the seventh game when Rogers double faulted having already saved three break points.

Rybakina, who served 12 aces in the match, closed out triumph with a hold to love.

Asked on court if the experience of playing last year’s final at the same venue had helped her this time, Rybakina said: “Actually, it didn’t help me much because I was just as nervous today.

“But amazing atmosphere, it’s the first time I’ve played under the roof and the grass is on the baseline. It’s just amazing. Really happy to go through to the next round and just enjoying the moment here.”

She will face either Japanese lucky loser Nao Hibino or France’s Alize Cornet in the second round.

Tunisia’s Jabeur has struggled to build momentum during an injury-hit season and her preparation for the grass-court major was far from ideal with early losses in Berlin and Eastbourne, but the sixth seed showed her caliber versus Frech.

“I always feel so great to come back here. Last year I had an amazing run and hopefully this year it will be a little bit better,” Jabeur said.

“I walked into the locker room and there was Elena’s photo with the trophy so that didn’t help at all,” she joked.

“But it’s amazing to come back here, just the atmosphere, the grass is so beautiful, and I love connecting with nature.”

After narrowly missing the chance to break the 70th-ranked Frech early with two wayward drop shots, Jabeur got her nose in front in the fifth game thanks to clean hitting and she raced through the opening set.

The 28-year-old moved with ease and displayed a stunning range of shots that included drops, lobs and scoops to overwhelm Frech and go 3-1 up in the next set.

“I’m just trying to enjoy my time, enjoy playing tennis, doing some cool drop shots and see what’s going to happen,” said Jabeur, who hit 33 winners but also made 29 unforced errors with her high-risk style.

“It reflects my character. I like to joke around a bit,” she said. “I hate routine … I like to entertain the crowd with cool shots, so maybe I’ll keep doing that.”

Frech grabbed a break against the run of play before drawing level but Jabeur, who needed three sets to overcome the 25-year-old at Indian Wells this year, ensured there would be no late drama under the Court One roof.

Jabeur restored her advantage as Frech sent a shot long and closed out the contest on serve to set up a meeting with either unseeded Belgian Ysaline Bonaventure or Chinese qualifier Zhuoxuan Bai.

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