July 3, 2019
Johanna Konta is used to being the centre of attention among British fans at Wimbledon when Andy Murray isn’t around.
And considering the pressure on Konta’s shoulders as she carries a nation’s hopes into the tournament, she performed well in her opener.
Konta beat the Romanian, Ana Bogdan 7-5, 6-2 to progress comfortably enough.
In doing so she has already gone further at Wimbledon this year than former winners such as Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sharapova and Venus Willians, not to mention number two seed Naomi Osaka.
But the fairytale belongs to another Brit on day two. Jay Clarke, a 20-year-old wild card from inner-city Derby, won through to face the great Roger Federer in the next round.
It is the dream scenario for any young tennis player to take on Federer. But to do it at Wimbledon, his home Slam, will be something Clarke will never forget.
He almost blew it. Not only did he lose the first set to Noah Rubin, but he also squandered a 5-2 lead in the second.
No matter. He dug deep, summoned his best tennis and triumphed 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 to make sure he didn’t let that perfect scenario slip through his fingers.
Even before he walks out with Federer, Clarke is entitled to tell his friends that he went deeper into Wimbledon fortnight than French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.
The talented Austrian was sensationally beaten by the in-form American, Sam Querrey. The big-serving Querrey took most of the points that mattered to win it 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, 6-0 with the help of 21 aces.
So Thiem joins contenders such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sascha Zverev on the list of unexpected knock-outs.
The biggest names in tennis are still there though. Federer and Rafael Nadal won their openers, although an attack of nerves caused the Swiss to lose the first set against Lloyd Harris.
Federer still wasn’t unduly drained as he marched on 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
Nadal wasn’t troubled at all in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Yuichi Sugita. But his next match is against the unpredictable Australian, Nick Kyrgios. Now that one should be a cracker.
Meanwhile Serena Williams avoided the same first-round fate as her sister Venus by defeating Giulia Gatto-Monticone 6-2, 7-5. She also claimed this is the ‘best she has felt since February.’
Sharapova also looked relatively secure when a set and a break up against Pauline Parmentier.
But then she began to feel twinges in her left wrist or forearm and couldn’t maintain her level. At 0-5 down in the third, she retired to spare herself the bagel.
How many more times will we see the great Sharapova at Wimbledon?
There’s the thing. We had best see all the greats now, while we still can.
When they can’t beat their injuries and their best opponents any more, they will call it a day forever.
Then the chance for us to enjoy their magnificence at Wimbledon will be gone forever.
Garbine Muguruza should come back strong despite her latest setback. The Wimbledon champion of 2017 was beaten by a Brazilian qualifier.
Beatriz Haddad Maia won 6-4, 6-4 as Muguruza’s power game deserted her. And so another famous name said goodbye to the famous old tournament almost as soon as it began.
That won’t worry Kyrgios and Nadal they prepare for their edgy showdown.
And it won’t worry Derby’s Clarke either. Because Federer, the man every player wants to face, is still there and waiting for him.
featured image by: ©KT