The now familiar tide of Murray-mania swept across Wimbledon on Tuesday as Andy Murray began his bid to end Britain’s 73-year wait for a men’s singles champion in glorious sunshine at the All England Club.
The world number three appeared to have taken a leaf out of former local favourite Tim Henman’s Wimbledon manual as he teased, tortured and finally thrilled the expectant crowd with a 7-5 6-7 6-3 6-4 first-round win over Robert Kendrick.
Kendrick had talked up his chances of gatecrashing the British party by declaring: ”I’d love to disappoint a nation.”
Luckily for the fans the American, who entertained the crowd with his acrobatic antics, dived out with a forehand error.
John McEnroe’s assessment was that Murray had produced ”a B performance” but he did conjure a moment of magic. Sprinting towards the baseline, he flicked a forehand winner over his shoulder which even brought a smile to the dour Scot’s face.
However, Murray agreed with McEnroe’s verdict.
”He [Kendrick] doesn’t give you a whole lot of rhythm, I could have returned better and I didn’t hit my groundstrokes as well as I would have liked … but it got better,” he said.
With the sun beating down on south-west London, record crowds again flocked to Wimbledon for the second day running as Murray made his much-anticipated appearance on Centre Court.
But before the main Murray show began, there had been plenty of supporting acts around to entertain the fans on day two.
Venus Williams performed her duties as champion with the minimum of fuss to stride into the second round with a 6-3 6-2 win over Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele.
Williams, described by American great Martina Navratilova as having ”the wingspan of a 747”, used her long limbs to great effect to easily fly past Wimbledon debutant Voegele.
”It’s the best place to be when you are a pro tennis player and I savour every blade of it,” said Williams, who is chasing a sixth title at Wimbledon. ”I’ve had that crown for several years and I want to make it mine again.”
Marat Safin lost his chance to ever win the men’s title when he waved goodbye to Wimbledon. His 10th and final appearance ended in a 6-2 3-6 7-6 6-4 defeat by obscure American Jesse Levine.
His sister Dinara Safina’s prospects of living up to her world number one status did not look too promising. Suffering from tendinitis in her knee, she played through the pain barrier to beat Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5 6-3.
French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame Japan’s Akiko Morigami 6-3 7-6.
Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 Paris champion, looked to be heading for an early exit until she found the resolve to squeeze past Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecka 5-7 6-2 8-6.
Sixth seed Jelena Jankovic struggled with blisters before clawing her way to a 6-4 7-6 win over Germany’s Julia Goerges. While the bubbly Serbian skipped back into the locker room, her namesake, Jelena Dokic, buried her head in a towel after her Wimbledon comeback ended in a 3-6 7-5 6-2 loss to Tatjana Malek.
Almost four weeks after Dokic left a court in floods of tears, when her Roland Garros challenge ended with a back injury, she suffered another blow at the grass-court Major.
A dizzy spell ruined her day and she had to have her blood pressure taken during the match.
”I wasn’t feeling great at the beginning of the second. Things just started going downhill,” said Dokic, whose estranged father, Damir, was recently jailed for 15 months for making death threats against the Australian ambassador in Belgrade.
”I was aching a little bit and I was dizzy,” she added.
Another sentimental favourite, Kimiko Date Krumm, making her return to Wimbledon after a 13-year absence, also wilted under the heat in her opening match.
The 38-year-old Japanese, the oldest woman in the draw, made her professional debut in 1989 before her opponent on Tuesday, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, was even born.
Despite being old enough to be Wozniacki’s mother, she gave the 18-year-old ninth seed the run around in the opening set before fading away to a 5-7 6-3 6-1 defeat.
Fifth seed Juan Martin Del Potro, boosted to the top of the draw following world number one and champion Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal, made a mockery of his supposed lack of grass-court expertise by easing past Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-3 6-1 6-2.
Next up for the Argentine will be 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, a 6-4 6-1 6-1 winner over American Robby Ginepri.
Andy Roddick showed few ill-effects from the ankle sprain he suffered 10 days ago at Queen’s Club and blasted 21 aces en route to downing Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 7-6 4-6 6-3.
Asked if he felt ignored with all the hype surrounding a potential Murray-Roger Federer final, the sixth seed fired back: ”At this point in my career, I really don’t care who’s saying what, about who, and when, and where, and how.” — Reuters