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1:22 PM Tue, Nov. 13th

Three-year wait worth it for Ivanisevic

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Goran Ivanisevic waited three years to play one match.

It was everything he'd wished for.

Ivanisevic is back at Wimbledon for the first time since winning the title as a wild card in 2001.

After missing the tournament the past two years with injuries, he can still claim to be a "defending" champion.

The 32-year-old Croat picked up where he left off Monday – slamming aces, hamming it up for the crowd, blowing kisses and winning in straight sets on Centre Court.

"Beautiful," he said after beating Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Ivanisevic hasn't lost a match at Wimbledon in four years.

After beating Pat Rafter in a dramatic five-set final for his first and only Grand Slam title, he missed the 2002 tournament after left shoulder surgery and pulled out in 2003 after knee surgery.

This, his 15th career Wimbledon, will be his final tournament of any kind.

And he's making the most of it.

"I just came here to say goodbye and have fun," Ivanisevic said.

"If I win a couple of matches, it's great.

If not, it's also great."

The way he looked on the opening day, who knows how far he could go.

Ivanisevic paid tribute to another former champion making an emotional Wimbledon comeback.

Nine-time champion Martina Navratilova, 47, playing singles here for the first time in 10 years, served and volleyed to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Catalina Castano of Colombia in 46 minutes.

"I cannot compare myself to her," Ivanisevic said.

"She is another level.

She is from another planet.

She is one of the few women tennis players I respect.

...

She's my hero."

Navratilova is the oldest woman to win a singles match at Wimbledon since Madeline O'Neill of Britain reached the third round in 1922 at the age of 54.

"It's great to be out there, great to have that opportunity," Navratilova said.

"When people say, 'Why are you doing it?' I guess the answer is, because I still can, bottom line."

The first day also featured another Wimbledon staple – rain.

There were four rain delays in all; six matches weren't completed and 18 never started.

In between rain drops, Federer opened defense of his title with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory over British wild card Alex Bogdanovic.

It was the Swiss star's 18th straight win on grass – the longest streak since Pete Sampras won 23 in a row from Wimbledon in 1998 to Queen's in 2000.

Another former men's champion, 2002 winner Lleyton Hewitt, beat Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Venus Williams, champion in 2000 and 2001, swept 106th-ranked Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian of Switzerland 6-3, 6-0.

Venus' sister, two-time defending champion Serena, was paired in the first round today against Zheng Jie of China.

Serena, who hasn't won a Grand Slam title in a year, could become only the third woman in the past 35 years to win three consecutive Wimbledon championships.

No.

4 Amelie Mauresmo and No.

7 Jennifer Capriati were also scheduled to play today.

In men's play, second-seeded Andy Roddick was matched against Wang Yeu-Tzuoo of Taiwan and No.

5 Tim Henman against Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo of Spain.