TENNIS  –  Wimbledon – week one

Much was again expected of British No.1 and sixth seed Tim Henman. In round one, he silenced the packed centre court by losing the opening two sets 3-6, 6-7, to unfancied world No.70 Jarkko Niemimen, only to emerge victorious taking the next three 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. That narrow escape was not to be repeated in round two however.

Unknown world No.152, the 22-year-old Russian Dmitry Tursumov put paid to what probably amounted to Henman’s last serious title challenge, 6-3. 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Instead, it was 18-year-old Scott Andrew Murray who jumped into the breach rekindling patriotic fervour. The world No.312 wildcard entry, who was playing his first Grand Slam event, beat the experienced Swiss George Bastl in straight sets, before sensationally dumping the No.13 seed Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in round two.

The fairytale looked set to continue after Murray went two sets up against previous finalist David Nalbandian, but the Argentinean No.18 seed proved too resilient and experienced, managing to turn the match around in five sets. Fans can look forward to many more great matches from Murray, filling the void left by Henman’s decline.

World No.5 and outside bet for Wimbledon crown, Marat Safin, flattered only to deceive. Impressive against Mark Philippoussis, the Russian Australian Open winner was dumped unceremoniously by Spanish hard court specialist, Feliciano Lopez, in straight sets. Another recent hero, French Open victor, Rafael Nadal, managed to win one game on grass, before having his inexperience on the surface exposed by Gilles Muller from Luxembourg.

Still going strongly into week two are defending champion Roger Federer, Queen’s winner Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt, two of which should reach the final.

In the women’s competition, not one British lady survived round two nor did French Open queen Justine Henin-Hardenne, who fell at the first hurdle to Greece’s Eteni Daniilidou. Quietly fancied Patsy Schnyder, seeded 10, followed suit, while Serena Williams crashed out 6-3, 7-6 in round three to her 30-year-old compatriot Jill Craybas. Most impressive candidates in the last 16 at the time of writing are defending champion Maria Sharapova, Amelis Mauresmo and the pairing Kim Clijsters-Lindsay Davenport, who will have played each other by the time you read this.