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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brits fail to join Murray and Baltacha

Photo Titled Patricia Mayr
Patricia Mayr

For the second consecutive day, one of Britain's bright young stars had victory within her grasp after an impressive start but failed to secure a victory that would have ensured Elena Baltacha was joined in the second round by at least one female compatriot.

Rather like Laura Robson yesterday, Katie O’Brien failed to capitalise on a strong early position against the Czech Iveta Benesova, and ended up on the wrong end of a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 scoreline.

O’Brien had an inspired spell to take the second set on a break of serve, finally getting it with a wide service return which 26-year-old Benesova could only plop into the net.

The 23-year-old Briton, ranked 73 places below her opponent, should have had the upper hand, serving first in the final set. But after seven minutes, the Czech showed her greater tenacity and direction by breaking O’Brien.

After several breaks of serve, Benesova's greater experience came to the fore, whilst O’Brien’s game became too loose to bank the winners. Benesova had the luxury of serving for the match, a feat she accomplished with some ease.

And there was more disappointment to come for the British ladies. Britain’s leading woman, Anne Keothavong, was out of sorts in her first round match against Austria’s Patricia Mayr, ranked nearly 30 places lower. It was the 22-year-old Austrian who won in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2.

Despite a closely fought first set, lasting nearly an hour, which could really have gone either way, Keothavong had a disappointing match. In the second set, she was too wayward to make enough shots count and no amount of running around the ball to strike forehands could rescue her.

She struggled to keep her composure during the post-match press conference, but still defended herself and her colleagues, saying: “You can't guarantee the results at the end of the day, but I think you can definitely guarantee that all the British girls have tried 110%.”

Georgie Stoop, in a match carried over from Day One, was another who tried hard but failed to salvage the British record. Her valiant efforts against 7th seed Vera Zvonareva ended with a 7-6 (7-0), 4-6, 6-4 to the Russian.

Over in the men’s singles, 25-year-old Alex Bogdanovic, with his eighth wildcard entry, searched in vain for his first Wimbledon win. He was up against the 20th seed Tomas Berdych, but was simply no match for him. The 23-year-old Czech won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Berdych did have a couple of lucky net cord calls, but all he really had to do was move up half a gear at the significant moments. A break of serve in the seventh. Hold serve. Hold serve. Finish with an ace for flourish. Job done. A good day at the office.

Bogdanovic later agreed: “Just when it came down to crucial points, games towards the end, you know, I made a few mistakes. He obviously took advantage of that.” But was he worried about being a long-term wild card entrant? “It's tough. I come here every year expecting myself to win. I can't get past the first round. But you look back at the draws I've had. They haven't been easy. All you can do is just go out there and do your best.”

Elsewhere, Daniel Evans, playing in his first Wimbledon, was no match for 12th seed Nikolay Davydenko, a veteran of eight visits to SW19. The Russian made short shrift of 305-ranked Evans, winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

After the match, 19-year-old Evans said: “If you look at it on paper, it's horrible for me. But I think I did well out there.”

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