Wat­son and her bid to set heather alight halted by gloom

Bri­tish No.1 keeps flame flickering against Gar­cia be­fore fad­ing light sus­pends play

The Herald - Sport - - WIMBLEDON - STU­ART BATH­GATE

HEATHER WAT­SON, the Bri­tish No.1, has a one-set shoot-out against Caro­line Gar­cia of France to­day af­ter bad light stopped their match at a set apiece. Wat­son’s hopes of tak­ing the first-round en­counter to a sec­ond day and a third set looked slim af­ter she lost the first 6-1 in un­der half an hour, but she bat­tled back to take the sec­ond 6-3.

Orig­i­nally sched­uled as the last match of the day on Court Two, the con­test be­tween the Bri­ton and the No.32 seed was switched to Court 12 af­ter play fin­ished there ear­lier. The aim was to com­plete the first day as sched­uled, but with vis­i­bil­ity fad­ing to­wards the end of the sec­ond set, the play­ers were given the op­tion of call­ing it a night and re­turn­ing for the whole of the third. They took it, and the match was sus­pended, to a few half-hearted boos from the re­main­ing spec­ta­tors, just af­ter nine o’clock.

That was roughly half an hour ear­lier than the latest play has gone on here, other than for Cen­tre Court matches af­ter the in­stal­la­tion of the roof and its ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing. But the Cham­pi­onships are be­ing held a week later than usual this year, mak­ing any play af­ter 9pm prob­lem­atic.

Wat­son could have done with­out the in­ter­rup­tion, given the way in which she had got back on terms af­ter a poor start. She knows she can­not waste any time in get­ting up to speed when play re­sumes if she is to be­come the first Bri­tish woman to make it into the sec­ond round.

Home hopes of a ma­jor up­set on the first day rested with Jo­hanna Konta, but the Bri­tish No.2 found Maria Shara­pova in un­for­giv­ing form and lost 6-2, 6-2. The No.4 seed, oc­ca­sion­ally vul­ner­a­ble to shocks in the open­ing rounds of ma­jor tour­na­ments, looked a lit­tle shaky at first and had to save a cou­ple of break points in her first two ser­vice games. But once she broke her Aus­tralian-born op­po­nent to go 3-1 up, the only ques­tion was how long the match would last – not who the win­ner would be.

There was a chink of light for Konta when she broke at the start of the sec­ond, but she was her­self then bro­ken twice in suc­ces­sion. Af­ter that, Shara­pova’s main dif­fi­culty came from her own lapses of con­cen­tra­tion, one of which al­lowed Konta two break points in the sev­enth game. But once those were saved, the Rus­sian wrapped mat­ters up with­out fur­ther ado in a match last­ing an hour and 22 min­utes.

“I was quite pleased with the way things went to­day,” Shara­pova said. “It was my first com­pet­i­tive match in about four weeks, so I just wanted to start off re­ally strong, not know­ing much about my op­po­nent. So com­ing in with­out any proper grass-court matches, I just wanted to take care of busi­ness, and I thought I did a good job of that to­day.”

Konta, who was watched by her Fed Cup cap­tain Judy Mur­ray, was rel­a­tively pleased with her first out­ing against a top-five player. “It wasn’t just play­ing a top-five player – it was play­ing a top-five player on the Cen­tre Court at Wim­ble­don,” the 24-year-old said. “There were ob­vi­ously a lot of spe­cial mo­ments all rolled into one sce­nario.

“I en­joyed ev­ery minute of it. She played very well. My best just wasn’t good enough to­day.”

Naomi Broady made it two defeats out of three for Bri­tain’s women, los­ing 7-6, 6-3 to Mariana Duque-Marino of Colom­bia. “I’m ob­vi­ously dis­ap­pointed with the loss,” she said af­ter be­ing un­able to em­u­late her brother Liam, who had won his first-round match ear­lier in the day.

“Go­ing into the match, I was quite con­fi­dent. I’ve had a good grass sea­son over­all and took some top play­ers to close matches. I didn’t play my best ten­nis to­day, for sure, but I man­aged to give her a close match and did the best I could.”

Ser­ena Wil­liams, the top seed, dropped just one more game than Shara­pova, beat­ing Mar­garita Gas­paryan of Rus­sia 6-4, 6-1. For once in re­cent years, Ser­ena was out­shone by her el­der sis­ter Venus, who recorded one of the two dou­ble bagels on Day One.

Venus needed just 41 min­utes to de­feat another Amer­i­can, Madi­son Bren­gle, by the dreaded 6-0, 6-0 score. Ger­many’s An­drea Petkovic, seeded two places above the for­mer cham­pion at No.14, was three min­utes quicker in beat­ing Shelby Rogers of the USA by the same score. Ana Ivanovic, the for­mer world No.1 who is seeded sev­enth this year, fared al­most as well, de­feat­ing Yi-Fan Xu of China 6-1, 6-1.

Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, the No.9 seed, was the day’s first ma­jor ca­su­alty. She lost 6-2, 6-0 to Je­lena Ostapenko, the Lithua­nian teenager who was the ju­nior cham­pion here 12 months ago.

Flavia Pen­netta of Italy, seeded 24th, also fell at the first hur­dle, los­ing 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to Za­rina Diyas of Kaza­khstan. Barbora Strycova of the Czech Re­pub­lic, the 27th seed, was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Amer­ica’s Sloane Stephens.

Lu­cie Sa­farova, the sixth seed and run­ner-up at the French Open, was in trou­ble against Ali­son Riske, los­ing the first set 6-3. But she fought back strongly, elim­i­nat­ing the Amer­i­can by tak­ing the next two 7-5, 6-3.

RALLY CRY: Wat­son cel­e­brates dur­ing her match against Caro­line Gar­cia

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