Wimbledon 2016: Andy Murray, Tara Moore fly British flag as Konta, Watson wait another day
Britain's Andy Murray and Tara Moore reach the second round of Wimbledon 2016 on a rainy-affected day at SW19
Among a strong contingent of British players this year, the best showing at Wimbledon in a decade, the two highest ranked women and men would open their campaigns on this first Tuesday.
On the women’s side, No16 seed Johanna Konta and No55 Heather Watson carried the flag—backed by wild card hopefuls Tara Moore and Katie Swan.
On the men’s side, World No2 Andy Murray and No56 Aljaz Bedene spearheaded British hopes, but unfortunately for the third man, 22-year-old Liam Broady, he was drawn against Murray—the former Wimbledon champion, finalist at both Majors played this year, winner of the Rome Masters and Queen’s—in his first match.
Murray had never lost his opening match at Wimbledon dating back to his first as an 18-year-old. Even then he reached the third round—and it had only got better from there. The next year, it was the fourth round, and since then he had never fallen short of the quarters. He arrived this year with a 46-9 record and with more grass titles than any active player in the game except Roger Federer.
And what were the chances of such an untimely first meeting for the world No235? Well it was only last week at Queen’s that Murray had met a fellow Brit anywhere in 10 years, and in the space of a fortnight, he played Bedene, Kyle Edmund and now Broady.
In ranking terms, the left-handed Broady had the poorest chance of an upset against Murray, even though he made an astonishing comeback here last year in a five-set win over Marinko Matosevic.
And the difference between the two was writ large very quickly, as Murray took a 3-0 lead, and broke again to take the opener, 6-2. It was a near-identical story in the second set, an early break seeing Murray through to its 6-3 conclusion. Broady raised his level in the third, which lasted almost as long as the other two sets together, but Murray again got a quick break that saw him through, 6-4, to a meeting with the 76-ranked Yen-Hsun Lu.
The ill fortune of 56-ranked Bedene when it comes to draws at tournaments this season continued at Wimbledon, where he picked up the No7 seed Richard Gasquet, who has twice been a semi-finalist at Wimbledon. Even so, the slight Briton had made great strides since the start of last year, when he was ranked at 156. Since then, slowly but surely, the picture has changed: first the final in Chennai, then three Challenger titles, plus his first wins at Wimbledon and the US Open.
This season, niggling injuries did his cause little good—first to his leg, then his wrist—but come the French Open, and with a new fitness regime, a more confident Bedene emerged and he reached his first Major third-round.
Gasquet, though, with his elegant all-court angle, touch and variety, used the slick, low-bouncing grass here to great effect, slicing and dicing, then switching pace with his down-the-line backhand.
Bedene was slow off the mark, and broken in the second game, but he dug in to hold in the sixth and broke in the next game, much to the delight of a brim-full Court 3. But another clutch of sliced exchanges and it was another break to Gasquet, and he served out the set, 6-3.
The Frenchman got the first break in the second set, too, in the fifth game. He had to fight off three break points to hold onto his advantage in the next game, but eventually served out the set, 6-4.
It would be the same story in the third: there was not much in it, except that Gasquet was the more rigorous in converting his break chances while Bedene managed just one from seven chances. But it took Gasquet a tough two-and-a-quarter hours to finish the job, 6-3.
Bedene rued his luck in recent draws, but also his poor form in taking his chances when he had them.
“I had I don’t know how many break points… It’s never easy when you don’t take those. But it’s not easy to play him. He’s got great backhand, doesn’t miss much. I would have to play really, really well to beat him. Didn’t do that today.”
Elsewhere, there were mixed fortunes for the numerous British women in the draw. Tara Moore, aged 23 and ranked 227, became the first woman at Wimbledon this year to win a set, playing Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck, who is ranked 100 places higher.
After just 71 minutes, Moore had won the second set, too, 6-3, 6-2, to win her first match at a Grand Slam. Next, though, she will take on an altogether tougher opponent in the shape of former Grand Slam champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, but she was upbeat and confident after this first win.
“I think every match is tough, no matter who you play, what ranking, where you are. I think the last few times I was here, I had a couple tough losses, but I definitely played really well. This is my third time here [and] I do think I’ve sorted out many things. Starting to work with Tony [Lekic, mental coach], that’s really helped. I definitely feel like I’m supposed to be here and this is my time.”
For 17-year-old Katie Swan, ranked 437, the youngest woman in the draw and making her Grand Slam debut, it was not yet time, but she was always going to find the 44-ranked Timea Babos a tough challenge. Sure enough, despite the best efforts of a packed outside court, it took the powerful Hungarian just 61 minutes to beat her, 6-1, 6-2.
Johanna Konta, who is not just seeded at Wimbledon this year for the first time but is in the top 16, raced from the blocks against the not inconsiderable force of the 36-ranked Monica Puig, breaking twice for a 4-0 lead, and then a third time for the opening set, 6-1, in just 23 minutes.
But already the promised rain-clouds were looming over Court 1 and sure enough, at 2-1 in the second set, the heavens opened and play was halted across the All England Club.
The second ranked British woman, No55 Heather Watson, was scheduled to play Annika Beck but the weather forecast forced her match to a new day. Last year, Watson came within inches of taking out Serena Williams in the third round, finally losing 7-5 in the third set. Should Watson reach the third round again, she is likely to have the chance of a rematch.
The top-seeded Williams made heavier than expected weather against qualifier Amra Sadikovic, but did advance, 6-2, 6-4, to face Christina McHale.
But even on a day truncated by rain, there was much to celebrate for British fans at their home Major.
Following Dan Evans’ efforts in beating Jan-Lennard Struff yesterday, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (7), 7-5, Marcus Willis joined him in Round 2 with his fairytale run from pre-qualifying, through his first ever main-tour match and on to a meeting against Federer.
Today, Murray advanced, with Moore following soon after, and Konta and Watson still hoping to make it six.
Moore summed up the mood: “I think a lot of the British players have put in a lot of hard work. Everyone has their own unique way of pushing themselves forward to the next level. We push each other on. We’re supportive of each other. As a nation, we’re definitely improving. I definitely think tennis is on the up.”
And on that parting shot, Wimbledon announced there would be no more play. The British summer, it seems, is following the example of the French.