Aussies in action: Wimbledon Day 2
Thanasi Kokkinakis - one of five Aussies taking to the courts at Wimbledon on Tuesday - will face Juan Martin del Potro in a first-round blockbuster.
MEN’S SINGLES – FIRST ROUND
Thanasi Kokkinakis has had a well-documented struggle with injuries in recent years and if any of his fellow players could relate, it would be the 198-centimetre Argentinean who he faces at Wimbledon tonight.
Both have lost years out of their careers – and are keen to make up for lost opportunities with a strong showing at the All England Club. It is one of many similarities between the powerful big-hitting players, who both like to use their forehands to dictate play.
“He’s a great player. It’s gonna be a tough match,” Kokkinakis admitted of his higher-ranked opponent, a former world No.4 and US Open champion in 2009.
Yet the 21-year-old revealed his confidence in his body and game was improving. An upset win over last year’s Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic at Queen’s has also boosted his self-belief entering this match.
“I feel like I can play well and make this a thing – for sure I think I can win,” Kokkinakis said.
In his Wimbledon debut last year, Sydney’s Jordan Thompson drew a seeded Spaniard in Roberto Bautista Agut in the opening round.
Returning in 2017, the No.86-ranked Thompson has again been pitted against a seeded Spaniard, this time No.25 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Another unlucky draw? Perhaps so, but this year Thompson arrives at the All England Club after beating world No.1 and defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray a fortnight ago at Queen’s. Can you get any better preparation than that?
Ramos-Vinolas’ form is not so encouraging. He lost in the first round of his only warm-up event – and the 29-year-old only has four career wins on grass.
Thompson pushed Ramos-Vinolas to a three-set battle in their only previous meeting, at an ATP Challenger clay event in Italy in 2014.
Is this a chance for the much-improved Thompson to claim the biggest Grand Slam win of this career? The signs certainly look positive.
A week ago Bernard Tomic swished aside No.30-ranked Mischa Zverev 6-3 6-2 in a 50-minute second round match at Eastbourne.
It was the 24-year-old Queenslander’s best result so far this season and injected a timely confidence-boost in his game.
“I’m pretty confident and found a bit of form in Eastbourne, which is positive, and now I need to take that into the first round,” he said.
The serve-and-volley loving German, the No.27 seed at Wimbledon, awaits again.
“This match is tough, regardless if I beat him last week. I have to play well because it’s Wimbledon and everyone is looking to play their best here and he plays the right game against me,” Tomic said. “So it’s not easy.”
The No.60-ranked Tomic, who has reached the Wimbledon second week three times in seven previous appearances, is not underestimating the challenge.
“My opinion, he’s top 10, top 15 player on grass: streaky, he plays the right game to play on this surface, he’s playing the best in his career,” he said of Zverev.
WOMEN’S SINGLES – FIRST ROUND
On paper, the No.20-seeded Gavrilova will start a red-hot favourite against Petra Martic, a No.134-ranked Croatian qualifier – yet it could prove more complicated.
After 10 months off tour with a back injury that the 26-year-old Martic was worried could end her career, she has made an impressive return. At the French Open she reached the fourth round as a qualifier, eliminating top 20 opponents Madison Keys and Anastasija Sevastova before losing in three sets to No.5 seed Elina Svitolina. Her form has effortlessly transposed to grass, eliminating the top seed in the final round of qualifying to earn her Wimbledon main draw spot.
But 23-year-old Gavrilova is ready for the challenge, having learnt from past experiences about entering Grand Slams feeling too confident. Her goal for now is just to match last year’s second round result.
“It’s always tough to play first round of slams. It’s a different pressure,” she said.
In 2006 Arina Rodionova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faced-off in the Wimbledon girls’ doubles semifinals – now 11 years later, they are set to meet in a first round singles showdown.
Close friends off the court, their on-court journeys have taken different paths. As 2016 quarterfinalist Pavlyuchenkova contests her 11th consecutive Wimbledon main draw, Rodionova is preparing for her first.
The 27-year-old from Melbourne is excited her perseverance has been rewarded after an impressive run through the qualifying draw – a result that is projected to push her ranking into the world’s top 150 for the first time in her career.
Coached by five-time Wimbledon doubles champion Cara Black, Rodionova is now determined to make the most of this long-awaited opportunity.
“First rounds can be a bit tricky, people get nervous, so all you can do is go out there and give it a try and do your best and see how it goes,” she said.