Heather Watson (GB) bt. Daniella Hantuchova (SK) 6-4, 6-2
David Goffin (B) bt. Liam Broady (GB) 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-1
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) bt. Juan Monaco (RA) 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4
Ah, the folly of messing around with a perfectly good system. Wimbledon has been shunted back one week in the tennis tour schedule for the first time in 2015 and the weather has responded by going haywire. A temperature of 41.6 degrees Celsius was recorded yesterday, making 1st July 2015 officially the hottest day at Wimbledon, ever. This is the sort of temperature that makes the average fan at the Australian Open seriously consider whether or not there might be a better way to spend an afternoon, but the British being British they responded with their typical defiance, indifference and sunstroke. As paramedics scraped up the remnants of once were ball boys on Court 17, the world’s top tennis professionals somehow contrived to carry on regardless.
This was no mean feat, as anyone watching the action on television with a bag of frozen broad beans in their underwear could vouch, but for none more than the men. The men’s and women’s tours are organised by separate bodies – the ATP and WTA respectively – and as such each play to a subtly different set of rules. One provision on the WTA tour stipulates that ten-minute heat breaks may be taken by the ladies once the temperature reaches a certain magic number: 30.1 degrees Celsius to be pleasingly precise. Meanwhile the gents, who, let’s not forget, play best-of-five set – as opposed to best-of-three for the women – matches, have no such arrangement. There has been much dark muttering about sexism, reverse-sexism (don’t even get me started on that) and the potential for sweaty balls. But humans are a magnificent species, and while everyone is both in full possession of this knowledge and the understanding of what needs to be done, nothing will be. Because PROCEDURES are there for a REASON and must be FOLLOWED, even if the bottles of Robinson’s Lemon Barley Water have started to spontaneously combust.
The heat didn’t seem to affect many of the players adversely. Australia’s Bernard Tomic had a bit of a wobble, foreshadowing the day that the Russian football team refuse to come out for the second half because it’s too cold, but in the main you would never have guessed that the ground was melting. Even potty mouthed British number 1 Heather Watson managed to keep a lid on it, when everyone else inside Court 1 was mouthing four-letter words to one another about the heat or the price of Calippos at the kiosk. In fact, Watson was very much changed for the better in every way compared with her dramatic first round match. Her opponent was a big-name player but one who is now in the twilight of her rather stop-start career. Indeed, Daniella Hantuchova is now ranked thirteen places below Watson in the world, so the result was no particular surprise. It was closer than the scoreline suggests, but Watson was always in the ascendant. It was the kind of businesslike, purposeful second round performance that we’ve been waiting for from Watson for some time. Her celebrations, too, were as pleasingly muted as befits the completion of a professional job; rather different from the normal astonished histrionics we have grown accustomed to seeing from any British woman player getting past the second round in SW19. Her opponent in round 3 will be Serena Williams. Come through that one unscathed and even the most hard-bitten cynic would permit some mild whooping.
It was business as usual, too, for Monday’s hero Liam Broady. He faced up against the number 16 seed, the resurgent and artful David Goffin of Belgium. For the first set, the balance was almost exactly right, too, the Brit – upper lip stiff despite the weight of his magnificent beard, pluck at full pertness and spunk of the island race fully stocked – narrowly losing in a tie breaker. But the dream was not to last. He quickly lost the second set 6-1 and this time there was to be no spirited fightback. Probably for the best, considering the temperature. It was no place for polar exploration chic out there.
Speaking of things which make us itch, the Australian Fanatics were out in force on Court 18. Their pool of players to support is gradually starting to diminish but their capacity to annoy the world remains unimpaired. The yellow clothes, the continual singing and chanting between points… it’s nightmarishly un-Wimbledon in both its noise and its gaudiness. Nevertheless, it’s a sight we may need to get used to in the long haul, as their charge yesterday was the spectacular, swashbuckling, sweary Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios rose to international prominence at this tournament last year when he knocked out Rafael Nadal with the kind of assured, swaggering ability and arrogance that tends to mark out only the very best players. He was impressive again yesterday. One forehand return winner in particular will live in the memory. Had there not been a containing wall surrounding the court there’s every chance that the ball would still be going. His third round opponent, Lego man-haired Canadian Milos Raonic, who served at 145 mph yesterday – the third-fastest ever recorded at The Championships – would have been proud to call it his own.
Another thing showing no sign of respite is Kyrgios’ on-court antics. Fronting up to chair umpires is his particular bag, quite needlessly considering that in the majority of cases every one of his stars seems to be aligned. But the rising star Kyrgios is a “character”, which is another way of saying he seems to be becoming the kind of entitled, petulant brat whose increasingly selective appeal seems set to remain firmly inside the Vegemite portion of the Venn diagram.
I have little doubt that any player with Kyrgios’ particular blend of skill, power and confidence is a potential future Wimbledon champion. It’s now very much up to him whether or not he wants to be a popular one. He’ll still appeal, no doubt, to the legions of braying yellow-clad tits who invent tennis-based lyrics to old INXS songs on the fly. Continuing along on his current path, however, looks likely to alienate both the purist and the casual fan alike. Still, if he wants to boost his popularity on these shores he could always consider forming a mixed doubles partnership with Heather Watson, the kind of hard-hitting, hard-swearing unit that would make their opponents quake and Roy “Chubby” Brown blush.