May 27, 2019
Serena Williams is just like Roger Federer. She gets nervous at the start of a tournament.
Yes, it happens to the greatest of all time too. They are human just like us.
Remember Federer telling us his heart had been beating like crazy before he settled down to win his first-round match?
Well, Serena’s nerves were rather more problematic. She lost the first set 2-6 to a 68th-ranked Russian called Vitalia Diatchenko.
Suddenly all the publicity surrounding the print-work on her cape appeared to be weighing her down.
“Mother, champion, queen, goddess.”
Those were the words displayed in French. Serena is indisputably a mother. And in tennis terms, she is all the rest too.
But in that shaky first set, she didn’t look very regal or superhuman at all.
‘There is a lot of fear for a first-round match,’ she admitted. ‘I made a lot of mistakes in the first set.’
But fear not, Serena fans, because the superhero within soon found means of expression. She won twelve of the next thirteen games. Match over.
And now Serena will feel she can grow into the tournament and start to believe in all those superlatives once more.
Unleash the superpowers!
Meanwhile, something extraordinary happened to Jo Konta. She won a main-draw match at the French Open.
It really was a magnificent seventh attempt. If at first you don’t succeed…
Four first-round defeats in the last four years, two in qualifying before that. But she beat a German called Antonia Lottner 6-4, 6-4 to end her losing streak in Paris.
‘I think it was a bigger deal to you (media) guys than it was to me,’ said Konta about breaking the hoodoo. ‘But it’s nice to have won a main-draw match here.’
It sounded straightforward but actually it wasn’t. Lottner had chances to level the first set at 5-5 after clawing her way back from 2-5. Konta lost three service games in that opener before breaking once more to close out.
In the second set, Konta had to defend herself against three break points at 4-4. She held her nerve to prevail.
Konta said later: ‘When I found myself in tricky situations where the match could have swung either way, I thought I stayed quite calm. And I trusted myself enough to be able to handle whatever was coming to me.’
And what is coming to her next is a match against American wildcard Lauren Davis, before the possibility of a third-round showdown against the highly-fancied Kiki Bertens.
If she could win that one, who knows how far Jo could go?
Petra Kvitova has withdrawn to allow a small, grade two tear in her left forearm to heal in time for Wimbledon.
Caroline Wozniacki has been knocked out by Veronika Kudermetova, despite winning the first set with a bagel.
So Konta may see her fortnight starting to open up favourably now that she has negotiated that tricky first hurdle.
Fellow Brit Kyle Edmund became embroiled in a gruelling five-set marathon with Jeremy Chardy. They were locked at 5-5 in the decider when play was suspended.
Meanwhile the biggest names in the men’s draw, including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka all won through comfortably.
The only seeded American, Frances Tiafoe was the notable casualty. He was clearly ill as he lost a five-setter to Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.