World number 772 Marcus Willis proved the unlikeliest of home Wimbledon heroes on Monday, sealing a fairytale 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory over Ricardas Berankis, ranked more than 700 places up above him.
Cheered on by a packed and rowdy crowd desperate for a British win on day one at the tournament, the Briton showed all the guts and guile he needed to get through two rounds of qualifying, as well as the coaching he does to pay the bills.
Just winning the first-round match has netted 25-year-old Willis 30,000 pounds ($40,000), so it was no surprise he fist-pumped and saluted every winner against the world number 54 from Lithuania like he was lifting the trophy on the final Sunday.
He saved five break points in the eighth game of the final set before serving it out and he was greeted by near delirium on Court 17 before being swallowed up by the hugs of friends and family as he leant over the barriers.
Karlovic aces Coric
Karlovic, 37, one of a small band of 30-somethings in the men's draw, served 26 untouchable deliveries to dispatch teenager and compatriot Borna Coric 7-6(8) 7-6(7) 6-4.
But the second oldest man in the draw demonstrated that he is not just a one-trick pony.
His volleying was McEnroe-esque at times and his unsung groundstrokes, especially a grass-hugging slice, were rock solid when the 19-year-old Coric dragged him into baseline rallies.
Karlovic's movement too belied that of a man who at 2.11 metres loomed large on the tight confines of Court Eight, drawing gasps from spectators who had never seen him close up.
Even when he was in trouble, trailing 2-6 in the second set tiebreaker, the priceless commodity of experience came to his rescue.
He slammed down an ace, another serve winner, and produced a couple of textbook volleys as he surged back to snatch a decisive two-set lead.
"Only 26 today," Karlovic joked of his ace count that took his career total to a world record 10,851.
Image credit: AFP
"Normally in three sets it's around 40. I must be under-achieving," added Karlovic, one of the 49 men aged 30 or over to start in the singles -- a Wimbledon record.
"I was in trouble in the second set but I was aggressive and went to the net and he was a little shaky. I was able to use the opportunity and after that I felt the match went my way."
Karlovic said it had been slightly weird to play a fellow Croat and, while he showed no mercy towards Coric, he had some encouraging words for the teenager.
"Of all the young players he is the best mentally," said Karlovic, who surprisingly for someone with such a service weapon has only made one quarter-final in 11 previous visits.
"Technically he is behind some of them but that's good because that's the easiset thing to work on. Mentally he is unbelievable."
Raonic's solid start
Under the watchful gaze of new coach and tennis royalty John McEnroe, sixth seed Milos Raonic got off to a solid start with a 7-6(4) 6-2 6-4 win over Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta at Wimbledon on Monday.
Milos Raonic in action
Image credit: AFP
While the Canadian was not at the powerful best that took him to his first grasscourt final at Queen's just over a week ago, his class and big serve overwhelmed Carreno Busta 7-6(4) 6-2 6-4.
Much of the attention on Court Two was devoted to three-times Wimbledon champion McEnroe, who slipped into the players' box when Raonic was 3-2 up in a close first set. As many cameras and phones were pointed at him as his 25-year-old charge.
Raonic, hoping to better his 2014 semi-final appearance when he lost to Roger Federer, took the second set with a cheeky lob over the Spaniard, ranked 46th in the world. The Canadian needed seven match points to seal the match in the third.
Ivanovic dumped out
Ana Ivanovic became the highest women's seed (23) to perish on day one, losing 6-2 7-5 to world number 223 Ekaterina Alexandrova who was playing her first ever grand slam match after coming through qualifying.
"Yeah, it was very tough," Ivanovic told reporters.
"I mean, for two weeks I've struggled with my right wrist. It was very hard to accelerate on my forehand. I tried to do everything possible to be fit and recover and tape it and so on.
"But, yeah, it was a little bit sore. I feel like it caused me a lot of miss-hits."
Ivanovic, seeded 23, reached the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon warm-up event in Mallorca this month but it was there that she started to struggle with her wrist.
"It really got inflamed," Ivanovic, one of nine grand slam champions in the women's singles draw, said.
Ivo Karlovic of Croatia celebrates after winning his match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 4, 2015.
Image credit: Reuters
"I had a couple of days off and it started to calm down a little bit. Every time I would start hitting, it would flare up. I felt like I could probably manage it.
"But it's tough on grass when the ball really skids through. She was hitting very heavy. It was disappointing."
Ivanovic was not the only seed to lose on Monday.
In the men's singles, South African Kevin Anderson, seeded 20, lost to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 4-6 6-7(13) 6-4 7-6(2) 6-3, while Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat 21st-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5 6-3 3-6 6-3.
Where mortals wilt in the spotlight, champions bask. And so it was on Monday when Venus Williams, as she has done for most of the past 18 summers, took a large, languid stride into the second round of Wimbledon.
The scoreline of her 7-6(3) 6-4 victory over Croatian Donna Vekic told one story, and many points were tight.
The Court One crowd crackled with excitement when she emerged from the players' tunnel. And it is why, despite being the oldest woman in the singles draw at 36, she looks in good shape to go deep in her favourite grand slam.
"I still feel 26," the American smiled to reporters. "You know, I don't think anyone feels older. You have this infinity inside of you that feels like you could go forever.
Venus Williams (Wimbledon 2016)
Image credit: AFP
"That's how I feel on the court. As long as I'm halfway decent, can get my racket on the ball, I think I can make something happen. So far so good."