26 June 2012

Britons Going Great Guns at Wimbledon

In the first two days at Wimbledon 2012 the usual suspects have produced some excellent performances. On day one six-time winner Roger Federer ran out a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victor over Albert Ramos to equal his lowest amount of games lost in a Grand Slam match while defending champion Novak Djokovic started with a comfortable straight sets win over Juan Carlos Ferrero. In the women's draw there were wins for the likes of Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Li Na and Agnieszka Radwanska. 

Into day two and the favourites continued to come out on top. Rafael Nadal won in straight sets after an early scare against Thomaz Belucci and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Lleyton Hewitt. Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka also sealed easy passages into round two. For the last fifteen years or so the home fans at the All England Club have been used to only really having one player to cheer for; at first Tim Henman and now Andy Murray. However there have been signs over the first two days of this year's tournament that that trend might be about to change. For the first time since 2006 five Britons have advanced to the second round of the singles draws and there were other encouraging displays. 

Andy Murray did what was expected of him against a depleted Nikolay Davydenko on Centre Court in an impressive manner; winning 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. He will be hopeful of at least reaching a fourth successive Wimbledon semi-final despite having a tough quarter of the draw. He will probably next face big hitting Croatian Ivo Karlovic in what will be a testing encounter for him. Nevertheless it is not Murray that the British fans will be really pleased with over the last couple of days. 

After an epic battle out on Court 14 British number two James Ward came out on top against Spain's world number 36 Pablo Andujar. After twice coming back from a set down he proceeded to drop 3-0 behind in the deciding set against a player ranked 137 places above him. He sealed an impressive hold in the next game before breaking back. Unbelievably he ended up taking six games on the trot to run out a 4-6, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 winner. The crowd on the small court really got behind their man and he used this to his advantage as he really riled his opponent who even complained to the umpire about a clearly correct line call. Ward showed the form that took him to the 2011 Queens semi-finals with a good first serve and excellent cross-court backhand that fired all match. His fore-hand looked very iffy at times but he still produced some huge point-clinching shots. He meets American Mardy Fish in the second round in what will be a huge task, especially after playing for over three hours today. But he will already be happy after taking his first ever win in the Wimbledon main draw. 

British number one woman Anne Keothavong cruised to 6-3, 6-3 win over Spanish player Pous-Tio to take her place in the next round where she may face tenth seed Sara Errani. She never looked in trouble and will now be looking forward to trying to reach the third round for the first time. One British woman who has reached that stage before is previous national number one Elena Baltacha back in 2002. She has suffered with inconsistent form this season slipping from world number 50 to 101 and is now her country's third best. It looked as though that would continue when she dropped the first set to Italian player Karin Knapp. However, aided by an apparent Knapp injury she came through 4-6, 6-4, 6-0. She faces an uphill climb to match her 2002 effort as she next faces defending champion Petra Kvitova. Despite this these two women have done what was hoped for them and both have showed many positives to prove that they are not going backwards. 

The younger generation of British tennis is also causing some excitement in London. Youngster Oliver Golding showed great fight in losing in four sets to Igor Andreev despite winning more games and points than his opponent. Josh Goodall lost in four sets to exit at the first stage for the fifth year in a row and would now seem unlikely to be given another wildcard next year. Still in the competition is Jamie Baker who is a set and a break down to former finalist Andy Roddick. He showed great skill in taking the first set to a tie-break and will complete his big match tomorrow on Court One. 

The young women have also showed plenty of promise for the future. Since she won the Wimbledon 2008 girls singles title at the age of just 14 Laura Robson has struggled despite reaching the second round here last year. But this year she has found some good form and last week broke in the world's top 100 for the first time in her fledgling career. She seemed to be carrying on her good form against former French Open winner Francesca Schiavone when she breezed into a one set lead with some big serves and some fizzing fore-hands. The 32-year-old Italian showed her experience though to take the next two sets 6-4 to progress. Robson was clearly upset but was still happy with her performance: "I definitely believed that I could win. I think I was just trying to go for too much because she was getting more balls back and I was just trying to stay the aggressive player in the point, keep the rallies short."

Twenty-year-old Guernsey girl Heather Watson has always shone at these major tournaments and has regularly qualified in the last couple of years. After reaching the second round at the French Open just two weeks ago she came into this tournament full of confidence and just three places outside the world's top 100.  She faced a much higher ranked rival in Czech world number 52 Iveta Benesova. But Watson defied the odds as she produced a crushing display that was reminiscent of her first round win at Roland Garros to blow aside Benesova 6-2, 6-1. She has a very winnable second round match against American Jamie-Lee Hampton. 

With all these women hopeful of reaching the London Olympics they are all trying to better each other's results and this is being reflected in the positive outcomes. Fed Cup coach Judy Murray seems to have had a good influence on the women while James Ward appears to be relishing in his status as the Lawn Tennis Association's male number one. Whatever happens in the next round the future looks bright for the home country of tennis's oldest major tournament. 

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