Robson keeps flag flying for the hosts

HIGHS AND LOWS::Laura Robson advanced in front of an ecstatic Centre Court crowd, while Grigor Dimitrov staged a temporary sit-in protest after he slipped and fell

Staff writer, with AFP and Reuters, LONDON

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 - Page 20

Laura Robson, the last British woman standing at Wimbledon, made it through to the third round for the first time yesterday, beating Colombian qualifier Mariana Duque-Marino in straight sets.

Robson, 19, the world No. 38, traded breaks with her 117th-ranked opponent in the first set, but rolled her way through the second to win 6-4, 6-1 in 73 minutes before an ecstatic Centre Court crowd.

She faces New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic in the third round.

“It’s a big win for me, any match on Centre Court is a big one. It was a great atmosphere out there and the roof being closed just made it louder. It was very exciting,” Robson said. “I was kind of feeling nervous, but luckily I’ve played on Centre a couple of times before.”

Australian-born Robson, who lived in Singapore until she was six, was the only British woman to make it to the second round.

Robson’s Grand Slam best was reaching the fourth round at the US Open last year, the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1991 to reach that stage of a major.

Robson and Duque-Marino were due to play on Court Two on Thursday before rain stopped play for the day.

The match was moved under the Centre Court roof, though the rain later cleared up enough for play on the outside courts.

Duque-Marino broke in the third game, but Robson broke straight back and broke again for a 4-2 lead in the first set. After holding serve, Robson had a set point in the next game, but her 23-year-old opponent held.

After seeing out the set, she raced through the second, breaking in the second game and did not look back from there.

In the men’s singles, Grigor Dimitrov staged a temporary sit-in protest to register his anger at court conditions before he lost a five-set thriller.

The Bulgarian 29th seed, watched by superstar girlfriend Maria Sharapova, who was knocked out on Wednesday, went out 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 to Slovenia’s Grega Zemlja in a second-round match suspended due to rain on Thursday.

When the tie resumed on Court Three after a two-hour delay caused by more rain, the 22-year-old Dimitrov slipped and fell in his service action at 8-9 to give up the third match point of the tie.

He then stomped off to the sidelines and sat in his courtside chair.

The umpire and tournament referee then decided to wait out the drizzle before play resumed 10 minutes later, but it did not change Dimitrov’s luck as Zemlja took the victory on a sixth match point with a fine forehand passing shot.

An air of calm descended at Wimbledon on “Tranquil Thursday” as Novak Djokovic avoided the trail of destruction that had decimated the field at the All England Lawn Tennis Club on the third day of the grass-court major.

After men’s champion Roger Federer, and women’s second seed Victoria Azarenka and third seed Maria Sharapova perished during a “Wednesday Wipeout,” it was left to the men’s world No. 1 to restore a semblance of normality.

The closed Centre Court roof allowed Djokovic to dodge the “nuisance rain showers” that crippled the rest of the late afternoon program as he completed a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-1 win over qualifier Bobby Reynolds.

Reynold’s exit meant that for the first time since 1912 no American man will play in the third round at Wimbledon.

The American men joined a host of others at the exit queue.

Along with Azarenka and Sharapova, three other former women’s world No. 1s — Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic — also slipped and skidded out of the tournament on Wednesday, with many of them declaring the lush green turf “too dangerous.”

Australian Open champion Azarenka and men’s sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were among a record seven players to withdraw from a Grand Slam tournament in a single day.

Twenty-four hours later, French duo Michael Llodra and Paul-Henri Mathieu added their names to the growing casualty list.

Despite all the drama and controversy, Wimbledon’s new head groundsman declared he was “100 percent happy” with the condition of the courts.

Sprawling houses around the All England Lawn Tennis Club grounds that had been rented out for two weeks were abruptly vacated as Rafael Nadal, Federer, Tsonga and 2002 winner Lleyton Hewitt all headed home.

“It was surprising that so many top players lost in the last few days,” Djokovic said. “The fact that so many top players lost ... gives enough reason for all of us to not underestimate any opponent and not look that far [in the draw].”

Eighth seed Juan Martin del Potro, the only player outside the “Big Four” to win a Grand Slam in the last eight years, eased past Canada’s Jesse Levine 6-2, 7-6 (9/7), 6-3, while 2010 runner up Tomas Berdych beat German Daniel Brands 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-2.

In the women’s draw, fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, the runner-up 12 months ago, raced past France’s Mathilde Johansson 6-1, 6-3.

In the women’s doubles, Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia defeated Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain, the 15th seeds, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.