After the announcement of one the strongest fields ever to compete at Queen’s, spectators will undoubtedly have been left disappointed not only at the terrible weather but also the departures of top-10 players Richard Gasquet and Stan Wawrinka, which have followed Rafael Nadal’s absence through a wrist injury.
Yesterday Gasquet, despite displaying glimpses of his wonderful French flair with a couple of exquisite drop shots, was unable to match the hitting of American Steve Johnson who’s sheer power saw him win in straight sets. Likewise, Wawrinka was quite simply outplayed by Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who made the Swiss French Open semi-finalist look slow and lethargic in what was another straights sets win.
Former champions Andy Murray, Marin Čilić and Grigor Dimitrov also all struggled. Dimitrov, once heralded as a future Grand Slam winner, faced Janko Tipsarević in a match he would have expected to win. Nonetheless he was unable to do so, losing the first and third sets 7-6 and 6-3 respectively to the world number 553: a deeply concerning result considering that he has now lost his last six matches on the trot and will thus have to head to Wimbledon in the worst possible form.
Čilić, despite winning, was pushed hard by Feliciano Lopez who took the match into a third set with a 6-4 second set win. The Croat will be hoping for a far easier contest against Dimitrov’s vanquisher Tipsarević in the next round.
Andy Murray was similarly pushed all the way in his straight sets win over Nicholas Mahut. The Scot was forced to defend set points in both sets in what was an excellent contest on centre court. Murray was forced to play some excellent tennis to claw the match back from the Frenchman who took the early breaks in both sets and held a 4-1 lead in the second set.
He faces fellow Brit Aljaz Bedene in his next match in West Kensington, and will be hoping to find his groove after a slippery start. Indeed he will be desperate to win not only that match but also the tournament, purely for the injection of confidence that winning on grass would provide; confidence that will surely be critical if he is to make the most of his decision to reappoint Ivan Lendl as his coach and stand any chance of beating Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to the Wimbledon trophy.
By Charles Dew
(Images: scmp.com, i.eurosport.com)