There was a bumper crop of Britons lined up in the singles draws this year, and many of them were carrying the flag into the second round, too.
The men’s draw began with nine Britons, two of them seeded: No9 Cameron Norrie and No32 Dan Evans. Two more, Jack Draper, ranked 94 after reaching the Eastbourne semis, and Andy Murray got direct entry. The long remaining list were awarded wild cards: Jay Clarke, Ryan Peniston, Liam Broady, Paul Jubb, and Alastair Gray.
In the women’s singles draw, there were another eight Brits, headed by the only seed, Emma Raducanu. Heather Watson and Harriet Dart made the main draw on ranking, while the rest were awarded wild cards: Sonay Kartal, Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage, Katie Swan, and Yuriko Miyazaki.
A few fell at the first hurdle, though Evans’s straight-sets exit to a qualifier was perhaps the most unexpected. Among the young wild cards, though, there were some especially strong and encouraging battles, including young Jubb, who pressed Nick Krygios to five tough sets, losing in a 7-5 fifth. Kartal also made a big impression in her three-set loss to Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove.
But come the second round, there was still much to be excited about for the home crowd, with nine Britons in the mix, the highest number at Wimbledon since 1997. And one more would join them by the end of Wednesday. Harriet Dart, ranked 94, had her match from Tuesday postponed and took on Rebecka Masarova mid-afternoon. She won in convincing style, 6-1, 6-4, after leading the match 4-0 in the second set. But Dart stayed focused to break again to reach the third round and a very tough contest with No8 seed Jessica Pegula.
For Draper, Peniston, and Gray, it was also their first Major main-draw wins. Broady, though, had twice reached the second round before, so would be going for his best Major run—except that this time he faced No12 seed Diego Schwartzman, who beat him at the same stage here last year.
Peniston was the first up, having really come into form on grass this summer. Prior to Wimbledon, he had reached the quarter-finals on his Tour-level debut as a wild card at Queen’s, defeating world Casper Ruud and Francisco Cerundolo before falling to Filip Krajinovic. He also reached the quarters as a wild card at Eastbourne, and now had scored his first Major match-win in his Wimbledon debut.
He took on big-hitting American Steve Johnson, rather than the scheduled seed Grigor Dimitrov, who had retired injured. However, Peniston could not find the level of his first win, while Johnson flowed, deploying his big serve to great effect, and he ended the Briton’s breakout summer, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, in little more than two and a half hours, 13 aces to the good and with 23 points won at the net.
Then it was the turn of Norrie, this time allocated one of the big show courts, No1, so his reception on Court was big, noisy and enthusiastic. Norrie was, after all, seeded No9, had an Indian Wells Masters title to his name, and this season had won two more titles, in Delray Beach and Lyon. He was also runner-up to Rafael Nadal in Acapulco.
Norrie had made the third round here last year, but was yet to make the fourth round at any of the Majors.
His opponent Jaume Munar, had won his first Wimbledon match to get here, but his lack of former grass success did not show. He opened strongly, with a big-serving love hold, and pounded the ball to work break points in the next game. Norrie held them off, 1-1, and the crowd was already into what become a high-quality, blockbuster match.
The Spaniard threw in another love hold, but this time matched by Norrie, and the Briton’s leftie forehand began to do damage, breaking Munar for a 4-3 lead. He served it out comfortably, 6-4, after a pacey 35 minutes.
Court 1 greeted it with a huge ovation, and the fans grew even more excited when he worked break point in the first game of the second, but Munar bludgeoned a forehand and a 135mph serve to hold. He continued the power play to break in the second game, too, holding to love for 3-0.
More love holds for the Spaniard made it 5-2, and Norrie got a lucky net-cord winner to stave off set point. But Munar went on to level the match, 6-3. And the Spaniard was soon on Norrie’s case in the first game of the third, throwing up one of several lob winners for break point, and he converted, 1-0. Norrie hit straight back to love, but the quality continued to rise with some outstanding rallies, and Munar broke again.
Norrie responded, broke to level at 3-3, and consolidated to love. However Munar broke yet again at 5-5, and went on to serve out the set, 7-5.
Norrie bounced back, looking the fresher of the two men, and took a 3-0 lead in the fourth. It did not stop there: he raced through the set, 6-0, and had both momentum and first serve in the decider. Munar began clutching his thigh, stretching out, perhaps cramping, so Norrie, one of the fittest on the tour, looked ready to take advantage, 2-0.
But Munar held, then took treatment to his legs, and promptly broke to level. However, it would be the Spaniard’s last hurrah, and Norrie raced on to close things out, 6-2.
As Norrie headed towards victory on Court 1, however, Raducanu was being shown the exit door on Centre by the charismatic Frenchwoman Garcia, whose attacking game punched holes in the Briton’s tennis, 6-3, 6-3.
The former world No4 broke in the second game, already attacking the net with considerable success. Raducanu levelled at 2-2, but Garcia broke again and served out the set, 6-3. She went on to get the first break in the second set for a 3-2 lead, and again Raducanu levelled, but Garcia broke again, and then once more for set and match.
The French woman said how special it had been to play on Centre Court for the first time:
“I was really preparing this match really well. Emma is a huge player and in her home tournament and she proved she can do very well on the big stage. I really enjoyed playing on Centre Court, it was my first time and very special… It will be a great memory for me.”
Garcia had found her grass form before Wimbledon, winning in Bad Homburg last week, and her 25 winners plus 16 points won at the net show just why she is such a dangerous grass player. She will next play No33 seed Shuai Zhang.
At the other end of the scale, Heather Watson, who turned 30 last month, was playing her 12th Wimbledon, and had three times before reached the third round. She was forced to do back-to-back duty after her Monday match was delayed to Tuesday, and she was back on court Wednesday to face Qiang Wang, who put out Watson’s original opponent, No14 seed Belinda Bencic.
Wang, also now 30, had also played Tuesday, also coming through in three sets, but whether they would make it to court was debatable. Rain delayed play for almost two hours, and Court 2 had two men’s matches, plus Angelique Kerber, and the conclusion of Garbine Muguruza’s first match. The former champion would, incidentally, lose 6-4, 6-0, to Greet Minnen.
Also late on, once again, was former champion and Wimbledon favourite, Murray. He was set to play No20 seed John Isner, a man he had topped in all eight previous meetings, though they had not played for five years. And it was the tall, huge serving American who drew first blood, 6-4—but this one was destined for another late conclusion.
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