Liam Broady (GB) bt. Marinko Matosevic (AUS) 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3
Mariana Duque-Marino (CO) bt. Naomi Broady (GB) 7-6(5), 6-3
Before television cameras were invented there was an unlikely man called Fred Perry. Despite the notable and obvious handicap of being British he was the world’s best tennis player. Fred Perry was from Stockport, on the face of it hardly a noted hotbed of lawn tennis, but the Greater Manchester town again proved its credentials yesterday having produced the most notable tennis playing brother and sister combination since Boris and Doris Becker, Liam and Naomi Broady.
Liam Broady is the British tennis number 6, a role that normally carries with it all the caché of being the bloke sat next to the bloke who chokes second frankfurter in to the world hot dog eating contest. Yesterday was the 21-year old’s Grand Slam debut and the first time he had ever competed in a competitive five set match. Making the most of the opportunity, he needed all five to overcome Marinko Matosevic, a player ranked as high as 39 in the world during his career. Narrowly defeated in both of the opening sets, Broady fought back with the calm assurance of a man who had planned to do it this way all along to an enraptured crowd, carried along with equal parts nationalistic fervour and giddy excitement at watching a British player who wasn’t Andy Murray winning at Wimbledon, on Court 18. His next opponent is the 16th seed, Belgium’s David Goffin, a man once saddled with the no doubt helpful mantle as “the next Roger Federer”.
Naomi, four years Liam’s senior and the Broady sibling with the fewest beards, was competing in her fifth Wimbledon, having failed to get past the first round in the previous four in an evening match with Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Marino. Naomi is a looming 1.89 metres tall, a rangy sort who at first glance looks a little like Maria Sharapova. Whether or not Broady shares the same application as the Russian world number 4 is questionable: in 2007, Broady had her funding from the Lawn Tennis Association shut down after her Bebo page saw her bemoaning hangovers and photographed straddling a johnny machine. The rights and wrongs of booze and nodders notwithstanding, Steffi Graf never did any of these things and so it was decided that this was likely to be A Bad Thing.
The fallout between the Broady family and the LTA was pretty terminal. Broady senior, eager to support his talented progeny and to hell with the Lawn Tennis Association, sold his house and decreed that they would make it without assistance. This was all well and good until the LTA reached out to Liam in 2012, offering him help to acquire the necessary zoning permits required for his beard. Since this time, not a single word has been spoken between father and son. Whether or not this sad state of affairs will change now that Liam has met Sue Barker is anybody’s guess, but if his old man fancies getting some freebie tickets for the Wimbledon Singles this year it’s now on him to give Liam a call; having lost a tight first set on a tie break, Naomi’s game was undone by Duque-Marino in the second and she fell to her fifth successive defeat at the All England Club.
Stories about strained relations within sporting families are far from uncommon. They give you some indication as to the kind of investment – of time and emotion as well as the obvious – that is involved in making the step up into the ranks of the professional tour. These are the day-to-day realities for the majority of sportspeople. Only the most successful, talented (and, yes, sometimes photogenic) can expect to have their career bankrolled by the likes of Gillette. For the rest, it’s about balancing the amount of tournaments you need to enter, as well as being realistic about their likely return, in order to keep yourself going month-to-month and therefore be able to make it to the next big opportunity, the next tournament or just to do the grocery shop.
Liam Broady, 21 last January, can still realistically call himself a youngster with potential in his chosen field. With luck he may yet find his way to the more comfortable echelons of the ATP tour; higher rankings, guaranteed entry to tournaments and more prize money. It is unlikely that, in his current state, any of this is likely to ever be paid for by Gillette. It could be time to put in a phone call to dad after all. Even if it’s just to borrow some clippers.