While Centre Court was today graced by the game’s present superstars like Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, roving the outer courts at the All England Club provided a glimpse of the stars of the future.
Several young guns took to the grass on the second day in far more summery conditions than on Monday and in many instances, their tennis sparkled as brightly as the welcomed sunshine.
Among the winners was 19-year-old Caroline Garcia, who created a minor upset in sending off 2008 Wimbledon semi-finalist and former world No.15 Zheng Jie of China. The 6-3, 6-4 victory showcased the Frenchwoman’s stylish groundstrokes and fluid game, which was also on display when she led Maria Sharapova 6-3, 4-1 on Court Philippe Chatrier in the first round at Roland Garros in 2011.
It prompted this tweet from onlooker Andy Murray: “The girl Sharapova is playing is going to be number one in the world one day...what a player.”
Garcia, a qualifier ranked No.100, may not be quite there yet, but she took a huge step in her development today in winning through to the second round of a major outside France for the first time. She’ll get the perfect chance to test her top-ranked potential in her next match – current world No.1 Serena Williams.
As Garcia was coming off the court, another pair of young guns were just getting started. But unfortunately for Mallory Burdette of the US and Czech Kristyna Pliskova, they didn’t enjoy quite the same level of success.
Burdette – a 22-year-old product of the US college system – battled valiantly against Urszula Radwanska on Court 7. Sporting heavy strapping on both her right shoulder and calf, she nonetheless forced the crafty Pole onto the back foot in several brutal rallies.
Muscling the ball during and urging herself on after points, she unfortunately cancelled out her tally of 42 winners with 54 errors, helping the 44th-ranked Radwanska – the younger sister of world No.4 Agnieszka – record a 7-6(3) 4-6 6-2 win.
It was a more routine loss for Pliskova across on Court 5. A tall powerful lefty in the mould of compatriot and 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, Pliskova herself looks built for success one day at the All England Club.
But much like Kvitova had to, the younger Czech will need to learn to rein in her go-for-broke play – after narrowly losing the opening set, she alternated blinding winners with wild errors throughout the second, appearing determined to live or die by a single strike in rallies. Her Slovak opponent Jana Cepelova happily watched the stream of errors coming off the 21-year-old’s racket, winning 6-4, 6-1.
Pliskova’s identical twin sister Karolina ensured her family would enjoy at least some success on Tuesday. The right-hander of the duo found herself up against the ever-dangerous yet ever-erratic Nadia Petrova. And in a boon for the Czech, the No.13 seed had one of her off days.
Looking almost disinterested as the second set slipped away, Petrova erred often, and looked flummoxed as Pliskova perfectly disguised the direction of her groundstrokes while occasionally throwing in a well-timed angle or drop shot. Pliskova wrapped up a 6-3, 6-2 victory in just 52 minutes, reaching the second round at a major for the first time in her career.
While the emerging women were stealing headlines, several of their male counterparts were also in action. But unfortunately, it was experience winning over youth.
Ricardas Berankis, the 23-year-old Lithuanian, roared back to win the third set gainst French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, much to the delight of a vocal contingent of his home fans lining Court 5’s fence. But Mathieu, who took a bathroom break following that setback, returned to the court re-energised, and snared a decisive break early in the fourth set to run out a 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-7(3) 6-4, winner.
In one of the last matches of the day in fading light, a pair of Americans – Steve Johnson and Bobby Reynolds – battled through to a fifth set while a large crowd of enthusiastic spectators, enjoying the mild weather and dramatic tennis, stayed firmly put.
Johnson, the younger of the two at 23, held two break points when leading 4-3 in the fifth, only to slip awkwardly playing a return. It clearly affected him – he lost the next three points to allow Reynolds to hold, and then played an error-strewn ninth game to hand his opponent the break. Reynolds, soon to turn 31, then decisively served out a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4 win.
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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