Wimbledon 2019: On day of Brits, Dan Evans, Harriet Dart, Jay Clarke, Cam Norrie join Edmund and Watson
Britons enjoy royal support as Duchess of Cambridge watches Dart and Konta
Two Britons made it through on the first day of action at Wimbledon, both the top-ranked man, No30 seed Kyle Edmund, who beat Jaume Munar, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, and Heather Watson, who is currently ranked at 122 after a tough year or so on the tour.
Following a worrying retirement with a knee injury at the French Open less than a month ago, Edmund looked physically solid if a little rusty in beating the No90 ranked Spaniard whose preferred surface is clay. Munar had never won a match at Wimbledon before, while Edmund made the third round last year, and was chuffed to bits to be scheduled on Centre Court on the first day.
He will next play former top-10 veteran Fernando Verdasco, who has beaten the Briton in their two previous matches, though both went to deciding sets.
Watson played well above her ranking to beat 17-year-old Caty McNally, 7-6(3), 6-2, but there is something about Wimbledon that brings out the best in the sunny Watson.
Playing here in the main draw for the 10th time, she arrived on the back of first-round losses in Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne, and that after losing in the first round here last year. She was, she admitted, nervous in the early goings:
“I was a bit nervous today and I think it showed… I’m a confidence player, so not having those wins in the last few weeks, I was maybe over-thinking.”
And she confirmed that the nerves had never diminished here, even after 10 years:
“I think it’s just the same. It hasn’t changed at all. I think my excitement, my nerves, I can never sleep well. It’s the same every year. I think that’s great for me because it shows how much I wanted it then and how much I still want it now.”
Watson was one of four Britons in the women’s singles draw, with Johanna Konta, Katie Swan and Harriet Dart playing their first-round matches on the second day. Indeed Tuesday boasted a packed British schedule of no fewer than eight players.
Konta, seeded 19 after her best-ever run at the French Open to the semi-finals, has always performed well on grass, though she did not shine as brightly as usual on the home turf of Eastbourne, and pulled out of Nottingham, where she has twice been runner-up, to recover from Paris.
But there has been no doubting her increased confidence since GB’s successful performance at the Fed Cup tie in London, and she made the semis here two years ago. She took on world No132 Ana Bogdan, and despite the Romanian’s lowly ranking, she had almost beaten Konta in their recent clay meeting in Rabat, 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-2.
But with a home crowd on the brand-new show court No1, Konta was favoured to come through. It certainly proved to be a close contest right from the start, with both women going for their shots, and it was nip and tuck ahead of what looked like a certain tie-break. But Konta threw in a drop shot and thumped her forehand deep to break for 7-5.
The Briton broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set, and would not drop another game, 6-2, to set a second-round meet with Katerina Siniakova.
If Dart did not feel the nerves before her opening match, she surely did when the Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the All England Club, joined the limited seating on Court 14.
Dart played Christina McHale, and those nerves seemed to take a hold of the 22-year-old, as she failed to convert her break chances, and was herself broken for the first set, 6-4.
But once the Duchess left the court, Dart settled, broke early, and served out the second, 6-4. The third was a tense affair, with repeated breaks on each side, but Dart finally got the hold when serving for the match, 6-4, to score her first Wimbledon, her first Major match-win.
Dart will next face qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia, who upset the 2017 champion Garbine Muguruza, 6-4, 6-4.
Dan Evans was ranked 192 at the start of the year, but went on a tear to reach the final in Delray Beach, and once he hit the grass, he could hardly stop winning.
With a new-found dedication to his sport after an enforced year’s absence, his crowd-pleasing single-handed game, full of variety, tough and net play, was soon wowing fans again as he won back-to-back Challengers in Surbiton and Nottingham, and then lost in the quarters of Queen’s to compatriot Edmund.
Now ranked 61, he took on Federico Delbonis, ranked 75, a man who was looking for his first match-win in five appearances at Wimbledon. And Court 18 was treated to all of that Evans flair and grass skill in a two-hour plus three-setter during which Evans was never broken, and completed the victory 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3, with 42 winners to just 20 errors, and 25 points won from 34 net charges.
It was the kind of tennis that the British fans love, using the old-fashioned skills redolent of grass courts. And in this packed British segment of the draw, he will next play No18 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat James Ward in a thrilling five-set tussle after the Briton took the first two sets, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 8-6.
And Katie Swan lost out to Laura Siegemund, 6-2, 6-4, but second-ranked British man, Cameron Norrie made light work of Denis Istomin, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, in two hours, scoring his first win at his third Wimbledon. He next plays No8 seed Kei Nishikori.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Jay Clarke was targeting a meeting with eight-time champion Roger Federer when he took on Noah Rubin, and the 20-year-old got his reward. After dropping the first set, he came back to win, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
Federer was asked what he knew of the young Briton’s game. He smiled:
“I don’t know him very well. I’ve seen him around. I watched the end [of his match] a little bit… I know him a little bit better than Lloyd [Harris]—not a whole lot, though.”
But beware, Jay: It does not take the veteran Swiss long to master new opponents. After losing the first set to Harris, he allowed the young South African just five games in the next three sets.
NB Teenage wildcard Paul Jubb, who recently won the prestigious NCAA college title, was last on Court 17 where he would play No66 Joao Sousa.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge