Jun 23 2011 By Colin Mackenzie
Britain's tennis teens experienced the highs and lows of Wimbledon yesterday as injury hampered Heather Watson's advance to the second round while Laura Robson danced to a meeting today with Maria Sharapova in the advancing twilight.
Robson, still only 17 and the winner of the junior title three years ago, has been suffering from growth spurts which have slowed her progress. She also sacked her French coaches only last week.
So her three set victory over Germany's world No 77 Angelique Kerber was all the more unexpected, especially as she had to fight back after losing the first set 6-4.
By common consent Robson, now almost 6ft, has a game suited to grass with a swinging left handed serve allied to commanding ground strokes. She also has a tendency to let her mind go walkabout.
Whether she can overcome her nerves to give the rejuvenated Sharapova, herself the Wimbledon champion at 17 in 2004, a decent game on Court One this evening is open to speculation. But she does have the game to unsettle Sharapova who can also be erratic.
Having won the second set tiebreak Robson advanced quickly to 4-0 in the final set before Kerber called for an injury timeout. Apparently her serving (left hand) shoulder was hurt.
Immediately she broke Robson's serve twice and stood at 3-4 with serve. But Robson's nerve held and, aided by a couple of fortuitous net cords, she broke Kerber again and served out the final set 6-3.
Watson may lack Robson's height and power but she is a feisty scrapper. She had won the first set against Swedish-born French player Mathilde Johansson and was competing well in the second set when, at 3-4 down, she hurt her right serving arm.
After treatment and a bandage it was clear she could not serve at full power, allowing the inconsistent Johansson to take the second set 6-4. In a competitive third set Watson never lacked effort but the superior fire power exerted by the tall, blonde Frenchwoman eventually held sway and she ran out the victor 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Afterwards an emotional Watson said; "For me it's just frustrating. I've never felt like this. To hear that Rio Ferdinand tweeted his support is fantastic. I'm a Man U fan and I'll tweet him back later."
Britain's Anne Keothavong could advance no further than the second round after No 8 seed Petra Kvitova outclassed her 6-2, 6-1 on Court One.
The 27-year-old will have to consider her future after two long years of injury. Maybe the youngsters have overtaken her in the talent stakes.
However one 40-year-old proved to 15,000 spectators under the Cente Court roof that life is not over at that venerable tennis age. Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm was absent from the game for 12 years from 1996 when she got married, returning to tennis only in 2008.
Yesterday she gave 23rd seed Venus Williams, a five time Wimbledon champion, all the trouble in the world before succumbing 7-6, 6-3, 8-6 in a match of enthralling intensity.
It was the 40-year-old who was the more mobile and agile around the court. She matched Williams' extraordinary power stroke for stroke and proved to be very adept at the net.
Williams, relieved to have got through against such an opponent, said; "She's very clever and mentally very strong. Most important points she never makes a mistake. She knows how to win."
The last time Date-Krumm was on Centre Court she lost the 1996 semi final to Steffi Graf. Yesterday under the roof protecting the hallowed grass from the rain she rolled back the years and failed to act her age.
By contrast Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray progressed to their respective third rounds with the minimum of drama, Nadal beating giant American Ryan Sweeting 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 and Murray trouncing Germany's world No 83 Tobias Kamke 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.
Nadal will be able to sleep a little easier after learning that his third round opponent will not be Canadian big hitter Milos Raonic who pulled a hamstring and had to default but Luxembourg's Gilles Muller. Until he recalls that it was Muller who dumped him out of Wimbledon six years ago!
Murray now faces the experienced Croat Ivan Ljubicic, the former world No 3 player. The 32-year-old is enjoying something of a renaissance at present and has the game to worry Murray if the latter loses concentration.