Olympic fever has definitely arrived at Wimbledon. And it took the mixed doubles to d No.1 Court was bathed in an atmosphere more akin to Davis Cup than The Championships as Laura Robson and Andy Murray combined against the Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka in their first round match.
The British combination first paired up at the Hopman Cup in Perth in 2010, the then 15-year-old Robson very much a novice at senior level. They made it all the way into the final, losing out on the title, and the Hopman Cup diamonds, to Spain. A year later they went back to Perth, but were thwarted by injury, and gave it a miss this year. But there’s certainly no lack of pedigree between the two.
It looked like the experienced Czech pair might be too much though, when they found themselves at 15-30 on the Murray serve at 3-4 as Robson missed a sitter. But a little bit of magic goes a long way, and as Murray held, the duo broke the Hradecka serve, before Robson served it out, even covering her partner when he took a tumble.
Riding on the wave of that first-set win, they broke to start the second set, the crowd cheering every bounce, mis-hit and winner, lucky or otherwise. Poor Stepanek had his head in his hands.
It was almost all going too well. And so it proved, Robson producing three double faults serving at 4-3 to allow the Czech’s a sniff of the second set. The Brits produced two break points on the Stepanek serve, but couldn’t convert, and the blue and red duo moved ahead, taking the second set on a tie-break. The Brits even had a match point.
So, to a match tie-break. And the Czechs gritted in to lead 4-2, then 5-3, the Brits losing a little of their vigour and verve. But Stepanek, who had been the rock, finally started to feel the occasion, or the crowd, netting a volley, and the Brits levelled at 5-5. Unthinkably, astonishingly, they continued the climb, moving into a 9-5 lead. Surely four more match points would not go begging.
The Czechs saved the first, on their own serve. And Robson double-faulted away the next. But there was no mistake on the third, Murray poaching at the net, to a standing ovation.
It was hard to believe that it was just a first round match. Next up for the Brits are Australians Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt.
In the other mixed doubles matches of the day, Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas pushed Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan as hard as can be, going through two tie-breaks and a match tie-break to upset the second seeds.
Sania Mirza and Leander Paes meanwhile breezed through against Ana Ivanovic and Nenad Zimonjic, 6-2, 6-4.