An Italian lady was always guaranteed to advance to the second round of Wimbledon when No.16 seed Flavia Pennetta and Camila Giorgi were drawn against each other in the opening round of The Championships yet, on paper at least, it was never supposed to be the qualifier enjoying the glory.
But as the contest between the two women unfolded on Court 9 it was apparent that the underdog had, in the preceding week, brushed up on her grass court skills just a tad. This was after all the 20-year-old’s fourth match on the trot – she entered Wimbledon with a string of qualifying wins under her belt – and it was abundantly clear that she had become rather well versed in lawn tennis.
Giorgi’s sky high confidence levels were very much in evidence during her 6-4, 6-3 victory over fellow countrywoman Pennetta. Put simply, she was not afraid to pelt the ball. The strategy paid off; within minutes the world No. 145 had established a comprehensive 3-0 lead.
Powerful drop shots were peppered with frequent forays to the net, which at times left her 30-year-old opponent looking bewildered and very soon Giorgi was serving for the first set at 5-3 – a game she failed to hold – but come the next one she had regained her composure to break back and pocket the opening set.
The qualifier followed this up with an early break in the second and when Pennetta sprayed a ball out on match point there was no looking back for the young Italian – she had booked a place in the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.
Another ladies’ seed to fall at the first hurdle was Romania’s Monica Niculescu. The No. 29 seed was ousted out by France’s Stephanie Foretz Gacon, who notched up 31 winners on the way to her 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
Elsewhere, it was plain sailing for No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber who had never lost to her Czech opponent Lucie Hradecka in three previous meetings. Today proved no different for the 24-year-old German, who moved to a career best No.8 in the world earlier this month – the highest ranking held by a German woman since Graf’s retirement in August 1999. Kerber produced a solid performance to seal a 6-4, 6-1 win.
Next up on Court 18 was Nadia Petrova who appeared in no mood to hang around the SW19 grounds late into the evening. The Russian No.20 seed began her Wimbledon campaign with a no-nonsense 6-0, 6-2 victory over Maria Elena Camerin, firing off 19 winners along the way but the Italian could only muster seven and sported a rather large unforced error count of 20.
Over on No.1 Court, compatriot Vera Zvonareva had a hard task on her hands in the form of Germany’s Mona Barthel who, as a qualifier earlier this year, prevailed at Hobart to collect her first WTA singles tour title. In stark contrast the No. 12 seed and 2010 Wimbledon finalist has endured an injury-prone season - a left hip problem and right shoulder troubles forced her to withdraw from numerous tournaments this year – and this evening the Russian was distinctly rusty in the opening set, which went the way of the German 6-2.
Zvonareva’s fortunes soon turned around however, and she managed to keep her head above water for much of the second. By the time the 27-year-old reached the tie-break she was firing on all cylinders and an attacking game helped her pocket the second set 7-6(3) before play was suspended due to bad light.
Elsewhere, No.28 seed Christina McHale was locked in a 6-7(4), 6-2, 7-7 battle with British wildcard Johanna Konta when bad light halted proceedings.