Jun 27 2012 By Colin Mackenzie
For the first time in six years Britain has five players in the second round of Wimbledon - and it could so easily have been seven had both Laura Robson and Johanna Konta taken advantage of winning opportunities when losing narrowly to higher ranked players in three sets.
Andy Murray, beset with back problems and poor form at both the Aegon tournament at Queen's Club and at the French Open where he was bested by David Ferrer, totally outclassed Nikolay Davydenko, the one-time World No 3 player, in a match on Centre Court which detained him for no more than 94 minutes. The score was 6-1, 6-1, 6-4.
Murray, 25, is often guilty of relaxing once has got an opponent on the run. But whether it is the influence of newly acquired coach Ivan Lendl or for some other reason the Scot was in devastating and unrelenting form with his forehand totally dominant and a sliced backhand that tormented the man from Moscow.
His first service was operating at a 67 per cent success rate and at speeds in excess of 130mph. More often than not Davydenko could only watch in amazement. Of course there will be stiffer obstacles facing Murray in the coming days with big serving giant Ivo Karlovic, terrific Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, not to mention Rafael Nadal blocking his path to the final.
But Murrayphiles were in a good place last night as their hero appeared injury free and in a positive state of mind. In short the body language that so often betrays his inner demons demonstrated that his mind is in a good place as he faces the pressure of being the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to hoist the Wimbledon male singles trophy.
He said; "It's been a long two weeks (since his first round exit at Queen's Club) and I just wanted to out there and play. There's always a lot of talk before Wimbledon and the best way to stop it is for me just to go out and win tennis matches, so it was great to make a good start.
"I felt comfortable. I was hitting the ball cleanly from the beginning and I hit my slice very well which is important against Davydenko. I never let him off the hook which I was pleased about."
Elena Baltacha has spent much of her career suffering from injuries and liver allergies. This has hampered her progress to the top 50 and yesterday conributed to a dire first set against lower ranked Italian Karin Knapp who was handed success by Baltacha's double faults and ineptitude.
But the daughter of Russian parents is nothing if not a fighter and she gathered her wits sufficiently to emerge the victor 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 with a little help from Knapp who fell heavily in the second set and never seemed quite the same player again. Baltacha also received a major boost afterwards when watching GB women's coach Judy Murray gave her the information that she and Anne Keothavong would be representing ther country in the Olympics.
Baltacha said; "I think everything I've been feeling over the past three weeks came out when I burst into tears on Judy. I was very emotional. It means a huge amount for me to be selected for the Olympics after my parents both represented Russia in the 1980 Olympics."
Keothavong, the daughter of Laotian immigrants to this country but brought up in Hackney close to the Olympic stadium, dispatched lower ranked Spaniard Laura Pous-Tio 6-3, 6-3 but not without the odd hiccup. The 28-year-old was cruising to victory when she got nervous at 5-1 in the second set. It took help from her opponent who also had an attack of nerves to see her safely through. Incidentally Baltacha now faces Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in round two and even the latter was nervous in dispatching the giant lady from Uzbekistan Agmar Amanmuradova 6-4, 6-4.
James Ward has spent the majority of his tennis playing career carving out wins on the Challenger circuit, apart from a glorious week last year when he reached the semi finals at Queen's Club. This year reality set in and he was defeated there in the first round, damaging his ranking.
Yesterday, though, he thrilled the crowd watching on Court 14 as he came from two sets to one down to master world ranked No 36 player Pablo Andujar 4-6, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The London taxi driver's son has a big serve and surely deserves his place at Wimbledon on merit rather than as a wild card.
He said; "I've not been playing like someone with my ranking recently. I've been unlucky to meet guys at the top of their game. Pablo is a very good player. He has wins in clay court tournaments for fun and he's not ranked 36 in the world for nothing."
Laura Robson may be only 18 but she is now Britain's No 2 tennis player and she has the game to go far on grass. For a set and a half she totally dominated Francesca Schiavone, the Italian 24th seed who won the French Open two years ago. Schiavone, suffering from a back injury, needed a 15 minute time out after the first set to get medical attention.
At 3-2 down and 0-40 on her own serve in the second set Schiavone looked down and out. But Robson was unable to take advantage and let her opportunity slip. From then the experience of Schiavone, slowing down the intervals between serves and making Robson wait for her, started to count. Even so Robson fought back from 1-5 in the final set to make Schiavone serve it out to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Robson said later; "I thought I was in control and then just made a few mistakes and let her back in the match. She is a Grand Slam champion and took advantage of that completely."
Konta, who received her British passport only last month (she was born in Australia of Hungarian parents but has lived in Eastbourne for six years), was agonisingly close to victory over Christina McHale, the 28th seed. The 21-year-old has a powerful all-court game and had she been a little more street-wise in the final set when 8-7 and 30-15 up when a drop shot would have sufficed instead of belting the ball into the net she would have had two match points.
However she can be very satisfied with her first Wimbledon effort going down 6-7, 6-2, 10-8 to her American opponent. She said; "I am kicking myself. I had opportunities I didn't take."
Today Heather Watson, 20, takes on American Jamie Lee Hampton to try and make round three of the tournament while Jamie Baker trails former US Open champion Andy Roddick 7-6, 4-2 on Court One and has to complete his match.