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Monday, June 22, 2009
Updated: June 23, 6:51 AM ET
Blake is first seeded player to lose

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WIMBLEDON, England -- The new roof wasn't tested. Roger Federer was -- briefly.

The retractable roof stayed open Monday for the first match on Centre Court at Wimbledon, and Federer fell behind early before charging past Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

Novak Djokovic also advanced to the second round by beating Julien Benneteau 6-7 (8), 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-4.

In his first match since winning the French Open, Federer failed to convert his first four break-point chances and then lost serve to trail 3-2. But he immediately broke back, broke again in the final game of the opening set and dominated from there.

"I'm very happy with my first round," Federer said. "I thought it was a very solid performance."

Seeking his sixth Wimbledon title, Federer won for the 41st time in his past 42 matches at the All England Club. The lone loss came in last year's final to Rafael Nadal, a match hailed by some as the sport's best ever.

Euro De-Rail

James Blake

James Blake clearly prefers the hard courts of Australia and the U.S. Open, where he's been much more successful than at the two European Grand Slams.

Blake W-L by Slam
Slam Overall record '09 result
Aussie 20-8 L, 4th round
French 6-7 L, 1st round
Wimbledon 7-7 L, 1st round
U.S. 18-8 ?

The tournament began in cloudy but dry weather. When it rains, the translucent roof on the 87-year-old stadium will be closed so play can continue.

"I guess the moment will come that I'll play indoors here," Federer said. "But you don't really hope for it during the match."

The No. 2-seeded Federer is a strong favorite to win his 15th major title, which would break the record he shares with Pete Sampras.

Federer made his entrance sporting a sleek new white warm-up outfit with gold trim that included a jacket with a turned-up collar, a vest, slacks and two-toned shoes. The crowd roared when he appeared, and he responded with a wave and smile.

There were more cheers -- and a few whistles of approval -- when he removed his jacket to reveal the vest.

"Kind of a little bit more modern look -- a bit more military jacket this time, but obviously staying true to Wimbledon with the white colors," Federer said. "I hope people like it."

By the time the match started, Federer had stripped down to shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. He was assigned to play the first match on Centre Court after defending champion Nadal withdrew Friday because of sore knees.

"Rafa deserves it obviously more than I do this year," Federer said. "But somebody had to do it, so I'm very happy that they chose me. It gets your heart beating, that's for sure."

After being broken early, Federer held every service game. He finished with 10 unforced errors and hit 42 winners from all over the court.

One winner was a running backhand from several steps beyond the sideline, which he ripped up the line into the corner to win the point. It was a spectacular shot even by Federer's standards, and the stoic Swiss celebrated with a raised fist as the crowd roared.

Djokovic converted his third match point on Monday when Benneteau pulled a backhand wide. Djokovic looked to the sky and crossed himself, relieved to advance after more than 3 hours of play.

Benneteau hurt his left knee in the final game when he slid into the back wall chasing a shot. Sprawled on the grass, he iced the knee, and play resumed following a six-minute delay.

Three points later, Djokovic closed out the win. He's seeded fourth and considered one of the biggest threats to Federer's bid for a sixth Wimbledon title.

No. 17 James Blake was the first seeded player eliminated, but fellow Americans Mardy Fish and Vince Spadea advanced.

Blake failed to convert a set point in the third set, squandered a 5-0 lead in the ensuing tiebreak and lost to Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (5). Blake was also eliminated in the first round at the French Open last month.

"I still feel like I can play with anyone in the world, but it's just for some reason lately it has been very inconsistent," Blake said. "I know I still have the ability. It's just frustrating, because it's happening at big tournaments where I'm having my not-so-good performances."

No. 28-seeded Fish never lost serve and led 6-3, 6-2, 4-1 when Sergio Roitman retired with a right shoulder injury. Roitman, ranked 124th, fell to 0-12 in Grand Slam matches.

"There's nothing that I can do about it," he said. "It's not that I'm not going to sleep at night because of that."

The 34-year-old Spadea, who has been eliminated in the first round at Wimbledon nine times, defeated Paul Capdeville 6-0, 6-4, 7-5.

Surprise French Open runner-up Robin Soderling, seeded 13th, rallied to beat Gilles Muller 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-1, 6-2. No. 21 Feliciano Lopez lost to Karol Beck 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

Soderling again relied on the big serve and booming forehand that helped him beat Nadal at Roland Garros, hitting 31 aces and saving all eight break points on Monday.

Soderling is an eight-year veteran on the tour but had his big breakthrough when he beat Nadal in the fourth round in Paris. He lost to Federer in straight sets in the final and could face the Swiss star again in the fourth round here.

No. 7 Fernando Verdasco, No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 11 Marin Cilic, No. 15 Tommy Robredo, No. 18 Rainer Schuettler, No. 22 Ivo Karlovic, No. 27 Philipp Kohlschreiber, No. 29 Igor Andreev and No. 32 Albert Montanes also advanced.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.