Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens raised a few eyebrows by reaching the Ladies’ Singles semi-finals at the 2013 Championships but should she repeat that achievement this year it would be a major shock. Seeded 24th and suffering an unimpressive year, Flipkens struggled to put away a handicapped Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-2.
Paszek needed lengthy treatment for damage to her left ankle and knee after taking a heavy tumble on the baseline at the start of the third set, but Flipkens, who had missed two match points at 5-2 in the second set, squandered three more before securing a shaky passage into the second round.
Paszek, twice a Wimbledon quarter-finalist, has also struggled to find form this season and switched to the lower regions of the women’s game in search of some victories. She struggled in the early stages against the powerful serving and heavier hitting of Flipkens, but it was a double fault, her third in rapid succession, which cost the Austrian the opening set in 33 minutes. In the second set Flipkens, controlling most of the rallies with impressive ease, broke for a 4-2 lead, just as she had done in the opening set, left Paszek stranded with a finely judged drop shot to go 5-2 ahead and in the next game, aided by two more Paszek double-faults, arrived at – and promptly missed – two match points. “I could have had an easier day but I like grass too much”, she explained with a laugh.
Clearly shaken, she was promptly broken to love and when the set moved into a tie-break she made a mess of that, too. Paszek, in contrast, let out a whoop of joy at her unexpected reprieve, but her happiness was brief indeed. The Belgian promptly took a toilet break in an attempt to regroup.
In the opening game of the third set Paszek suffered a heavy fall on the baseline and needed lengthy treatment to her left knee and ankle before being able to continue. Flipkens felt that, combined with her toilet visit the match was halted for more than a quarter of an hour and this affected her concentration. “It wasn’t easy,” said Flipkens, “but you have to stay focused.”
For Paszek, it was clear her mobility was restricted but, lifted by the crowd’s support, she battled gamely and benefitted from the inability of Flipkens to move her around the court. Even so, the match had moved beyond her and the Belgian duly ran out the winner, but not before making such heavy weather of serving for a place in the second round that she missed three more match points before clinching victory with a glorious backhand stop volley, her best shot of the match. “I’m satisfied by the way I managed to win,” she insisted. As far as a repeat of last year’s success, she said, “I’m just trying to do my best, so we’ll see how far we go.”
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