the legend

joyful rogger fedder

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 2 Preview

Photo Titled Andy Murray
Andy Murray
Although we dare not offer the Nelsonian exhortation "England expects" to Andy Murray because he is a Scot, it is fair enough to remind him that Britain expects much of him today - and, fingers crossed, over the next two weeks.

Resolutely sidestepping the hype, Murray is focused on the job in hand, though the fact that he will be playing the 2009 Championships in Fred Perry clothing is an omen, for good, one prays, that he cannot avoid acknowledging. As most people must surely be aware, Perry was the last home-bred Wimbledon champion an eye-popping 73 years back. We are overdue, both in England and Scotland.

As third seed and the top gun in his half of the draw, Murray should not find this afternoon's Centre Court opponent, Robert Kendrick, an insurmountable hurdle by the most outlandish stretch of the imagination.

Kendrick is a 29-year-old American, born on the West Coast (Fresno) and resident on the East (Orlando) who has stepped on court three times against Murray with high expectations and departed crestfallen and defeated on each occasion. The first time they met, on grass at Newport (the one in Rhode Island) three years ago, Murray clocked up a "double bagel" (6-0, 6-0) and in the two subsequent encounters has won five of the six sets they played.

Hardly a scenario, then, for Kendrick to be performing somersaults at the prospect of a fourth tilt at Murray. But, hey, Kendrick is an American, a nation never knowingly undersold on confidence, and he is entitled to be happy at just having achieved his highest ranking level (76) in a 10-year career.

But Murray's matches these days come with a health warning attached: here is one for Kendrick to take on board. Murray has improved, perhaps beyond even his own high expectations, since these two last met just over two years ago.

In the past 12 months, for example, since that comeback from two sets down at the 2008 Championships to Richard Gasquet, Murray has reached his first Grand Slam final at the US Open, won three Masters Series titles in Cincinnati, Madrid and Miami, as well as other tournaments in St Petersburg, Doha, Rotterdam and at Queen's Club. Mightily impressive stuff, but Andy, who is a stats and facts zealot, will be well aware that three years ago on these very acres Kendrick was two sets up against the eventual finalist Rafael Nadal and fired 32 aces before bowing out.

Murray will not, therefore, make the silly mistake of underestimating his opponent in today's third match on Centre Court and should move forward into the next round accordingly.

Having been denied, by a switch of programme because of Nadal's withdrawal, the opportunity of beginning the defence of her Wimbledon crown on the first day, Venus Williams will make amends in the Centre Court opener under the (hopefully) open new roof and should do what sister Serena did yesterday by marking up victory in a straightforward fashion.

Venus is a quietly-spoken lady, and everyone knows the adage about those who speak softly carrying a big stick, or in her case a potent racket. Such information will not be lost on Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele, who will occupy the spot on the other side of the net, possibly a little apprehensively, since she registers on the women's tennis computer at 97.

Venus has held aloft the appropriately named Venus Rosewater Dish, which goes to the women's singles champion, in three of the past four years, and five times in all, the finest strut since Steffi Graf was in her pomp. Venus and grass court tennis, it seems, were designed for each other, and she will, with good reason, be confident of taking possession of that dish for a sixth time.

At the 2006 Championships, it was Amelie Mauresmo who bisected that Venus hat-trick, but the sun has not shone on the Frenchwoman's endeavours subsequently. Having topped the world rankings in 2004, she appears here as the 17th seed and opens her challenge on Court 3 against Hungary's Melinda Czink.
Other more recent number ones who have slipped from that summit are the Serbian pair, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, both of whom are in action, as befits their seeding of 13 and six respectively, against opposition of the lower order and on the lesser show courts.

Fresh from her triumph at the Eastbourne tournament last weekend, the 19-year-old Dane, Caroline Wozniacki, will test her credentials as ninth seed on the new No. 2 Court against a wily and experienced campaigner from Japan, Kimiko Date Krumm who, minus the Krumm appendage, has appeared on multiple occasions at The Championships but has been reduced of late to lesser level tournaments.

Andy Roddick, having recovered from the ankle strain suffered last week at Queen's Club, will be pleased to fulfil the order of play committee's request for him to step out on Centre Court in the afternoon's second match. He faces one of the myriad Frenchmen in this tournament, Jeremy Chardy. The two have not met previously.

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