Brit girls are losers in this reality show as ladies crash back to earth at SW19
23:34 GMT, 28 June 2012
What a difference a day – and a touch of class – makes. Back on Court No 2, where the previous day, Heather Watson had thrilled home tennis fans, Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha, Britain's leading women for much of the last decade, crashed out in spectacular fashion.
It would have been acutely embarrassing but for the quality of the opposition. Baltacha, try as she might – and no one can ever accuse her of not giving her all – managed just three consolation games against Petra Kvitova, the defending champion and No 4 seed.
Keothavong, who performed well below her best, suffered a 6-1, 6-1 beating by recent French Open finalist Sara Errani. The so-called graveyard of champions had turned into the graveyard of British pretensions.
Sun setting: Baltacha was totally outclassed by defending champ Kvitova
Watson may have given us hope for the future but the present can still be painful. This was pretty much fingers-over-the-eyes viewing from a British perspective, a reminder that one good performance does not signal a revolution.
Baltacha and Kvitova had been scheduled for No 1 court. A late switch due to the length of previous matches took the game to the court where Keothavong had earlier offered little in the way of resistance.
Like her British team-mate before her, Baltacha lost her opening serve with a string of unforced errors. The situation worsened as the Czech player reeled off the next five games to take the first set in just 21 minutes.
Baltacha just could not cope with Kvitova's power. The court was half in sunshine and half in shadow, though for long enough it seemed to be only the latter for the Brit who lost the first four games of the second set.
The humiliation of the double bagel – 6-0, 6-0 – beckoned. Suddenly, a shaft of light. Baltacha held her serve, broke Kvitova and held again for an unexpected run of three games. That proved her last success.
Heading out: Keothavong (right) is out but Watson (left) remains a huge hope
'Come on, come on,' she shouted time and again in an attempt at self encouragement. Once too often, as it happened, as she prematurely celebrated the winning of a point, which would have given her the first game of the second set, only for Kvitova to make a brilliant return.
'I had a bit of a Serena moment and shouted “come on”,' she said referring to a famous Serena Williams incident. 'I did not think she would get to the ball.'
No 'come ons' for Keothavong who maintained an apparently unemotional detachment from proceedings.
'For every match at Wimbledon, you've got to get excited about it,' Keothavong insisted. 'And I do. But when you're making error after error, it's hard to let out a, “Come on”.'
She had looked flat from the start, not so much losing as donating the first game with a double fault, a foot fault and assorted mistakes. Twice in the second set she committed the cardinal tennis sin of dropping serve with a double fault. It is not as if she lacks experience.
Of those in the main women's draw,
Keothavong is fourth in the number of appearances behind the Williams
sisters and Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand. This was Keothavong's 12th
Wimbledon, Baltacha's 11th. Four times Keothavong has reached the second
round and no further, adding up to four victories and 12 defeats.
Not much of a yield, it has to be
said. 'I have been around for a while,' the 28-year-old said, 'but there
are girls older than me who are still out there winning Slams and doing
'I still enjoy what I'm doing and I
still feel like I can improve. I know I'm capable of playing better
tennis. That keeps me motivated.
'As long as I'm enjoying it and fit and healthy, there are worse ways to make a living.'
Unwittingly, one must assume, she had touched on one of the main criticisms of the Lawn Tennis Assocation, to whit providing mediocre players with a considerable livelihood.
Her two singles matches here will bring a cheque for 23,125. Both British players will be back at Wimbledon for the Olympic Games. An occasion for a 'come on' or two.