When Elena Baltacha became the first British female to fall at Wimbledon this afternoon hopes passed to Samantha Murray and Johanna Konta to fly the Union Flag for the fairer sex on the opening day of The Championships. Only, one by one, they fell by the wayside until it was left to Anne Keothavong to keep the hopes of the nation alive in the late afternoon gloom.
She could not have requested a better stage – late scheduling saw the wild card allocated the prime location of Centre Court, an arena which moments before had been occupied by Andy Murray, albeit briefly, as he swept past Germany’s Benjamin Becker to book a second round place.
Watched on by Judy Murray, an inspired Keothavong rose to the occasion matching world No.59 Garbine Muguruza for much of the opening set despite sitting 158 spots below her in the world rankings and, at the age of 29, giving away a decade in years.
It wasn’t until the 10th game that things began to conspire against her. A couple of sloppy errors followed by a magnificent cross-court forehand winner by the Spaniard brought up three break points for the set and when Keothavong netted a backhand it proved to be a costly first break of the match.
Things deteriorated spectacularly in the second for Keothavong who was noticeably tired, and no longer able to stand her ground against the powerful drives spawned by the 19-year-old’s racket. Within 30 minutes she’d lost the second set and the match, winning just 44 points overall compared to Muguruza’s 66.
Earlier in the day wild card Samantha Murray – no relation to Andy – faced a tough opponent in the form of Italy’s Camila Giorgi, who has been known to work the SW19 lawns. Last year the 21-year-old qualified for The Championships, reaching the fourth round on her Grand Slam debut before falling at the hands of No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
This afternoon the world No.93 displayed the sparkling grass court tennis that helped her achieve that feat with one notable weapon – her serve – firing on all cylinders helping her wrap up the match 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 19 minutes.
“I was a little bit nervous but then I play good,” Giorgi said. “I think it was great match… I think everything was good. The serve was feeling good, so must be the same thing for the next match.”
Over on Court 12 British wild card Johanna Konta took a while to warm up in the overcast breezy conditions against No.16 seed Jelena Jakovic but, despite a spirited fight-back in the second, bowed out 2-6, 5-7.
British hopes now remain with Laura Robson, Heather Watson and wild card Tara Moore, who all begin their Wimbledon campaigns tomorrow. Robson will play No.10 seed Maria Kirilenko, Watson takes on American Madison Keys and Moore meets Estonian Kaia Kanepi, all in the same half of the draw as world No.1 and defending champion Serena Williams.
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.
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