It’s been a great start for British tennis players at this year’s Wimbledon Championships as five, yes five, British players have made it through to the second round, with some incredibly nervy performances and unexpected wins delighting the home crowd at the All England Club.
It started on Monday with British No. 6 Liam Broady defeating Marinko Matosevic of Australia in a physical and mental marathon. The wildcard came from two sets to love down to clinch the match in the fifth and demonstrated incredible determination to overcome a player once ranked 39 in the world. After taking the first set 7-5, the Australian looked to have the match under his control when he took the second set 6-4.
But Broady had other ideas as an early break in the third fuelled his belief and his persistence seemed to frustrate Matosevic, affecting his form. Broady was able to take the third and fourth set 6-3 6-2 to push the match to a decider.
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As the fifth got underway, nerves got the better of him and he faltered early on. Matosevic capitalised and went 2-0 up, forcing fans right to the edge of their seats. But he broke straight back and then dominated the final set, with an unforced error from Matosevic sailing wide to give the Brit victory.
A much tougher challenge in the form of 16th seed David Goffin stands in the way of Broady and the third round. Can he make it any further in his Wimbledon debut?
The next Brit to join Liam in the second round was the top female player Heather Watson who also came from behind to defeat 32nd seed Caroline Garcia of France. Watson has never beaten a seeded player at Wimbledon and, like Broady, showed nerves of steel to come back from a set down and even save multiple match points before taking the match 8-6 in the third.
Watson had a slow start, losing the first set 6-1, but shook it off and seemed to find her form in time to take the second set 6-3 before play was suspended due to poor light. When play resumed on Tuesday, Watson was moving very well on the grass and displayed impressive power behind her forehand, unafraid to go for the risky shots when it mattered.
At 4-5 down in the third, she saved three match points to level the set 5-5. Watson then broke Garcia to serve for the match but failed to capitalise and the French woman broke to bring it back to 6-6. But at the second time of asking, Watson was able to break Garcia for again and serve out the match, this time successfully.
Next up for Watson is Daniela Hantuchova who knocked her out of last year’s Australian Open. Can she use this victory to repeat her performance on Wednesday?
Tuesday brought more British joy as Watson’s victory was followed by a slightly less surprising win by British No. 1 and world No. 3 Andy Murray who managed to overcome Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in straight sets.
It was a pretty comfortable win for Murray, despite a second set scare when his first serve seemed to abandon him and Kukushkin forced him to a tiebreak. But it didn’t bother Murray much as it was back to business in the third set and the former Wimbledon champion took the match 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 6-4. Murray will play Robin Haase in round two and leads their H2H 4-1.
With three Brits safely through, fans hung around despite the scorching heat to see if James Ward could join the cohort and defeat a lucky loser, Luca Vanni of Italy who replaced an injured David Ferrer.
Ward was eager to capitalise on this bout of luck despite losing the first set 7-5. He looked to be playing well though and showed some flashes of his recent Davis Cup form where he defeated John Isner in a stunning five-set victory.
Ward was most definitely helped out by Vanni’s poorly judged challenges, which rarely went in the Italian’s favour and often meant he surrendered points to the Brit after stopping play incorrectly. Nevertheless, Ward eased through the next three sets 6-2 6-4 6-3 and will face Jiri Vesely who is ranked 45th in the world.
The final Brit to join his compatriots in the second round of Wimbledon was the Slovenian-born Aljaz Bedene, who came through a monstrous five-setter to defeat Radak Stepanek of the Czech Republic. Although he moved to Britain in 2008, Bedene has only been a British citizen since March this year. But Bedene wasted little time in impressing his new fans.
He forced his way to an early lead, taking a tightly contested first set 7-5. But it seemed like the former world No. 4 and Wimbledon quarterfinalist was drawing on his 19 years of experience to overcome this setback. Before long, Stepanek took the next two sets 6-1 6-4 and it looked as though Aljaz was going to crash out of his first Wimbledon as a Briton.
But with some impressive serving and diverse tactics, Bedene proved he had solid determination and self-belief. The Brit hit an impressive 28 winners combined in sets four and five but still managed to keep his errors to a minimum.
Bedene managed to take the fourth and fifth set 6-3 6-4, to the accompaniment of a roaring crowd, and joined the rest of the British army in the second round of the Wimbledon Championships. He will face 22nd seed, Vicktor Troicki who is enjoying particularly good form this season, and will prove a much tougher test for the newly-appointed Briton.
The last time this many Brits were through to the second round was back in 2006, when Tim Henman was at the helm of British tennis and the thought of a home grown grand slam champion was far from our minds. But with Andy Murray looking in fine form and the attention of the public being pulled in so many directions this year, things are looking up for British tennis.
Not all the British players enjoyed this much success however. Laura Robson experienced some teething problems after returning from injury by losing to Rodina but showed some flashes of what got her all the way to the fourth round two years ago.
Liam Broady's sister Naomi lost to Duque-Marino of Colombia, despite a close first set and promising youngster, Kyle Edmund lost to Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, despite pushing him to a tiebreak in the opening set as well.
A tough draw for Jo Konta meant she faced the daunting prospect of playing former champion Maria Sharapova on Centre Court and, although it was closer than the score suggests, Sharapova looked extremely comfortable, beating the promising Brit 6-2 6-2.
But for now, British tennis fans can take comfort in the fact that the future of looks in safe hands, with some extremely impressive performances from young up-and-coming players pushing experienced names to their limits. Although all the Brits seem to have been given particularly tough draws, the strong support of fellow compatriots in the second round with them should help fuel their confidence and who knows what can happen with the support of a very vocal home crowd.
Could it lift these players to more memorable victories? How many Brits will be left standing when round three comes around?
Leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments section below!