Olympic tennis update
It was a mixed day for Team GB’s medal hopes at Wimbledon, as the young turks of British women’s tennis, Heather Watson and Laura Robson both progressed, while veteran Elena Baltacha, whose career has been dogged by injury, waved goodbye to SW19 for perhaps the last time.
The 29-year-old lost in straight sets to former world number one Ana Ivanovic. Baltacha, who had intimated that these Olympics will be her last competitive appearance, will shortly undergo surgery to remove a floating bone from her ankle which, even if she does choose to play on, will impose upon her a six-month exile from the sport while she recuperates. “If I’m ready to come back in February then I will,” said the former British number one. “But if I feel I’m enjoying life at home then, yes, I will retire.”
Whether she leaves the sport or not, her loss to Ivanovic proved to be a neat summary of her career up to this point; facing a significantly higher seed, the Brit battled valiantly, causing a number of problems for her opponent, but ultimately failing to convert key opportunities and losing the tie. “It was very emotional and there were a few tears,” she said. “It had nothing to do with my future; I just wanted to win so badly.”
Meanwhile Robson and Watson both claimed victories that will see them pitted against Maria Sharapova and Maria Kirilenko respectively in the next round. Watson dropped just four games en route to a comfortable victory against Spaniard Soler Espinosa, who is ranked 63rd in the world.
Robson’s opponent, the Czech Lucie Safarova, proved more troublesome, and the 18-year-old had to battle through a tie break in the first set before clinching the second 6-4. The youngster had initially been up 5-1 in the first, and suggested that nerves had gotten the better of her: “It’s always tough to keep up that sort of level,” she said; “I had a few bad first serves after that, started to relax a little bit. That let her straight back into the set.” Robson will need to do be more clinical against Sharapova, to whom she lost in the second round at this year’s Wimbledon in straight sets.
Both Williams sisters progressed comfortably as Venus defeated Italian Sara Errani 6-3 6-1, while Serena saw off Urszula Radwanska 6-2 6-3. Venus, who is looking to win a record fourth gold medal at these games, will have played on six consecutive days if she reaches the final on Saturday thanks to her opening match being delayed by rain.
There were few if any shocks in the men’s tennis, which saw almost all of the favourites into the next round. Richard Gasquet, Juan Monaco and Marin Cilic all advanced to the second round, where they will be joined by experienced Olympian Lleyton Hewitt as well as the Russian Nikolay Davydenko.
Three time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick defeated Martin Klizan of Serbia 7-5 6-4; the American will face World number two Novak Djokovic in the next round. Roddick won only two of 13 break point opportunities, but in typical fashion lost just 9 points in his 11 service games to clinch victory. “It’s going to be tough,” said Roddick of his next match, “but the situation, we’ve both been through it a million times. I’m going to have to serve well and take some chances on returns.”
Theo Chiles, Olympics correspondent