It’s been 10 months since Ross Hutchins was given the all clear from cancer and on Thursday the Briton took to the SW19 lawns with partner Colin Fleming to begin his Wimbledon men’s doubles campaign.
The British duo, who made the quarter finals here in 2011 and reached the same stage at the US Open a few months later, faced a tall order in the form of No.16 seeds Pablo Cuevas and David Marrero.
Hutchins was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood, in December 2012 and missed last year’s tournament as he battled the condition.
But since being given the all clear the man from Wimbledon has once again dedicated his life to the sport as he seeks to rebuild his doubles ranking – which has been as high as No.26.
Although the men clawed their way back from a set down to level the match they were rustier than their Uruguayan/Spanish opponents, generating four double faults as opposed to Cuevas/Marrero’s zero and seven unforced errors compared with two. They also had to deal with 19 aces on the way to their 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) defeat.
According to Hutchins, nerves were not an issue. “We were pretty relaxed before the match,” he said. “We played well in Eastbourne last week; practised well. We felt good going into the match. No excuses there whatsoever. There weren't any injuries. We felt good. Just couldn't quite convert on their game style really.”
Despite the loss, the 29-year-old declared it was great to be back having missed the previous year. “It's the best tournament in the world. It's what you want to perform well in. We played okay, but didn't perform to our absolute best. Got outplayed a little bit today. It was a tight match, but credit to them. They played better than us and deserved to win. Unfortunately couldn't come through, but it felt amazing.”
Elsewhere, the No.2 seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares were put through their paces by Max Mirnyi and Mikhail Youzhny, who enjoyed a quarter-final run at the Australian Open earlier this year, but eventually prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Fourth seeded Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were also made to work against Daniele Bracciali and Jonathan Erlich needing three hours and 20 minutes to close out the 6-3, 6-7(1), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 match.
Radek Stepanek, that chap who had taken a set off Novak Djokovic the previous day, was also gracing the SW19 lawns again, this time on the rather modest stage of Court 5 partnering Leander Paes. The No.5 seeds defeated Poland’s Mariusz Frystenburg and America’s Rajeev Ram 6-2, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4.
It was plain sailing for Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi. The No.8 seeds needed just three sets to overcome Frantisek Cermak and Mikhail Elgin 7-6(9), 7-6(8), 6-3.
Top seeds and defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan had been due to play but rain forced a halt to the play.
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