Moments before Roger Federer marched onto Centre Court to mark the official opening of The Championships 2013, the event provided its first shock with the exit of the ladies’ No.5 seed, Sara Errani. The 26-year-old Italian crashed out 6-3, 6-2 to Monica Puig, a teenager from Puerto Rico making her senior Wimbledon debut.
The 19-year-old Puig, impressively business-like beneath her white visor, consistently took the match to her vastly more experienced opponent and faltered only on the brink of the biggest victory of her young career, needing seven match points to wrap things up in one hour 22 minutes on Court 18.
Errani was runner-up at the French Open last summer and a semi-finalist there this year. But that, of course, was on clay, her favourite surface. She has never prospered in her five previous Wimbledons, failing to reach the second week every time and last year suffering the indignity of a 'golden set' in which she lost a set without collecting a single point.
Puig had not played on grass since appearing at the 2010 Wimbledon juniors but reaching the third round at Roland Garros earlier this month in her Grand Slam debut (the first woman from Puerto Rico to get that far in a major tournament) lifted Puig to 65th place in the rankings, her best-ever, and the boost to her confidence was plain to see.
Even in the warm-up she was walloping the ball with clear intent, and though her match-opening ace was immediately followed by a double fault, she soon had Errani scuttling anxiously in pursuit of shots driven deep into the corners. What would prove to be the high point for the Italian came in the third game of the opening set when she held two break points but failed to cash in on either.
This reprieved, Puig visibly blossomed and, after holding to love for a 3-2 lead she broke Errani with a crunching cross-court backhand accompanied by a yelp of delight. That was the start of an irresistible run in which she garnered six of the next seven games. The first set was hers in just 35 minutes and Errani could do nothing to cheer up her vocal support in the crowd, dropping serve in the opening game of the second set as Puig hammered away from the baseline.
There was a slight stutter from the Puerto Rican when, leading 3-0, she was broken, only to capture the much less threatening Italian serve, for the fourth time, in the next game and then serve out to love for a 5-1 lead.
Only when she was in the deepest peril did Errani’s fighting qualities begin to assert themselves. Three times, on her own serves, she was match point down and three times she escaped in a marathon game which went to deuce nine times. Perhaps the prospect of her best-ever win helped to gnaw at Puig’s nerves. Three more match points got away from her before, on the seventh, she was clearly relieved to see Errani overhit and present her with the match.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all