Wimbledon 2018

Wimbledon 2018: Day of No1s Part 1 – Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund headline Brits

British duo Kyle Edmund and Johanna Konta both win their openers at Wimbledon

For the thousands of British fans, it was hard to know where to look at the All England Club on first Tuesday, so many home players were in action. Eight, in fact.

And that was on top of the four who had taken to the fresh courts on opening day. What is more, wild card teenager, Katie Swan, ranked just 204 in the world, won her first match at Wimbledon by beating world No36 Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-2, 6-2, in under an hour. She was, naturally, thrilled:

“Winning here is something that I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl… But it isn’t the end. I still want to win my next match. I definitely want to keep going in the tournament.”

It had been less good news for Harriet Dart, though the 21-year-old ranked just 171, and playing in her first Wimbledon, gave a very good account of herself in a brutal draw, the No7 seed Karolina Pliskova. She eventually lost, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-1, but with promise of much more to come.

Liam Broady, also a wild card, also had a shocker of a draw, and not surprisingly went down to former world No3 and Wimbledon finalist, Milos Raonic, 7-5, 6-0, 6-1. Then Cameron Norrie was knocked out by the former British player, now reverted to his native Slovenia, Aljaz Bedene, in a late-night four-setter.

There were, though, high hopes of more wins on the second day, as both top-ranked Britons took to the courts.

Johanna Konta had a breakthrough run here last year to reach the semis and rise to No4 in the rankings. On the way, she played one of the most memorable matches of the tournament, a three-set thriller against Simona Halep, eventually going out to Venus Williams.

However, she arrived this year after a poor run of form and some injuries at the end of 2017, as No22 seed. There were signs of the big-hitting confidence returning as she hit her favourite surface on her home turf, with a final finish in Nottingham, and had a close contest against eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki in Eastbourne. However, with so many points to defend, there was some pressure to perform well.

She took on Natalia Vikhlyantseva, ranked 103, a woman who plays a not dissimilar style of tennis, offensively from the baseline. But the 21-year-old had won just one Major match in six previous attempts and only five matches on the main tour this year.

Their similar styles, though, made for athletic exchanges, as both used the width of the court, threw in short balls, served big. But come the business end of the first set, Konta put her foot down to win 10 points in a row—a love hold, a love break for 6-5, and a hold to 15 for the set, 7-5 after 41 minutes.

She now looked in control, as more errors came from the Russian’s racket. Konta broke in the first game, and maintained her lead, 4-2 as the match moved into the second hour. But Vikhlyantseva broke back in the eighth game after a gutsy hold and break points on her own serve, and that spelled some anxious moments for the British fans.

Twice Konta fended off set points in a long 10th game to keep it at 5-5, and it would eventually take a tie-break to separate the two. Again, Konta took the early lead, 3-0, and would serve for the match at 6-2. But Vikhlyantseva levelled, saved another set point, but Konta would finally seal the win after an hour and three-quarters at the sixth attempt, 7-6(7).

She next plays Dominika Cibulkova, who she has beaten twice in three meetings. She beamed:

“I’m looking forward to it. She’s probably one of the best competitors on tour, has been for quite some time. She’s a feisty player. I think it will be a great test for me to keep a good focus on controlling what I can, accept that she’s going to fight her way into some points, and really stay there until the very end.”

Kyle Edmund was seeded at his home Major for the first time, at a career-high No17, after he had enjoyed his own breakthrough season this year to reach his first Major semi in Australia.

Last year here, he finally won his first main-draw match but lost to Gael Monfils in the second round. He was a different animal this time around, a big-serving, fitter and stronger man, and one with growing confidence as the top-ranked singles Briton at Wimbledon. After all, he could count victories over Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin, Kevin Anderson and Novak Djokovic through this season.

The 23-year-old played qualifier Alex Bolt, ranked 204, who had won just one tour-level match, and that was last month, on grass, also as a qualifier in s-Hertogenbosch. And the difference in the level of the two men showed very quickly in very windy conditions on Court 1.

Edmund broke immediately, and broke again for 2-5, holding to love with an ace for the set, 6-2. The second set went almost as fast, a love break in the fifth game paving the way to the set, which Edmund closed out with another break for 6-3. He had made no unforced error at all in that set to 10 from his opponent.

The third set took a turn, with the left-handed Bolt striking in the fifth game of the third set to break, but his serve-and-volley tennis let him down with a couple of poor errors in the 10th game, and Edmund pounced to level, held with ease, and broke for set and match, 7-5.

He had made just nine unforced errors in the hour and three-quarters, and it earned him a Round 2 match here for only the second time—and against another left-handed qualifier, the No168 ranked Bradley Klahn.

But what he had relished in particular was playing on Court 1 for the first time, adding:

“I’m obviously very hungry [for more]. You want to do well at your home tournament, especially when it happens to be the best tournament in the world.”

Across on Centre Court, Naomi Broady, 138 in the world, had the experience of her career, her first time on Centre Court—because she was drawn against one of the favourites for the title, the defending champion, Garbine Muguruza. She was outplayed in the first set, 6-2, but came back to make a real fight of it in the second, losing the hour-long set, 7-5.

British teenager Jay Clarke, ranked 218 and playing his very first Major main draw, put up a superb fight against qualifier Ernests Gulbis, a former top-10 player, took the Latvian to a fifth set, but wavered on serve in the ninth game to offer the decisive break, and Gulbis served it out, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4.

Clarke was soon followed by 20-year-old Gabriella Taylor, who faced another formerly high-ranked qualifier, Eugenie Bouchard, and she too rose to the occasion, but eventually found the baseline power of the Canadian too much, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3, after an hour and 47 minutes.

Heather Watson would later take on Kirsten Flipkens, Katie Boulter faced Veronica Cepede Royg, and Katy Dunne would take on Jelena Ostapenko.

Wimbledon 2018: Day of No1s Part 2 – Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep open campaigns for ‘Channel Double’

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