RIGA - In the last couple of weeks all eyes in the tennis world have been focused on Wimbledon, home to the Lawn Tennis Association. Tennis fans, apart from getting behind the players from their own countries, give vociferous support to players of their own choosing too.
British hopes usually fall on the shoulders of one or two players, one of whom usually makes it into the second week before crashing out of the tournament. The last five years have seen Andy Murray (Scottish and British!) make it through to the semi-finals, though never to win. But in what was an unforgettable championship match on Sunday against Serbian no. 1 Novak Djokovic, Murray finally did it, pulling out a stunning and well earned victory, not only for himself, but for a nation that has grown desperate for signs of hope on the famous grass courts.
Not so though for the women. This year, however, Laura Robson, a 19-year-old with a great future ahead of her, raised the bar and made it into the last 16 and the second week of Wimbledon, the first British woman to do so since Sam Smith in 1998. Robson was up against Estonian, Kaia Kanepi who was ranked 15th in 2012, and is now 46th. After an edgy start with Kanepi serving four double faults before taking a 3-2 lead in the first set, the players began to settle down when Robson broke serve to lead 5-4. The set went to a tie break and, after falling behind 3-0, Kanepi stepped up her game and brought the score level at 5-5 before winning the set 8-6.
The second set was tight and only when it was level at 5-5 did Kanepi gain the upper hand, with three break points, to take a 6-5 lead. What turned out to be the final game of the set saw both players slug it out, with Kanepi hitting her eighth ace of the match, going ahead by three match points only to double fault and let the Brit get back to deuce. Then Kanepi struck a winning forehand to win the match 7-6 (6-8), 7-5.
The confident win by Kanepi, which meant Britain will have to wait a little longer to send a woman to the quarter-finals (not done since 1984) gave the Estonian her second appearance in the quarter-finals against the German Sabine Lisicki, who had sensationally knocked out Serena Williams in the previous round. Kanepi lost the opening set 6-3; it was Lisicki’s powerful return stroke that separated them. In the second set Kanepi took advantage of Lisicki’s two double faults, but it didn’t last. Lisicki took the next four games and won the second set 6-3.
The 28-year-old Kanepi bowed out of Wimbledon having made it to the last 16 for the second time in her career. Her current ranking of 46 is sure to rise after her Wimbledon performance, and with it, the vociferous support of tennis fans urging her on to a Grand Slam win.