As I walked from Barons Court tube station, feeling the buzz of excitement, I was pleased to dodge the long train of tennis fans snaking their way around Queen’s Club for ground passes and head straight for the dizzy heights of the media gazebo. I was immediately distracted by a dashing familiar stranger directly in front of me – former Wimbledon champion, Pat Cash. It never fails to amaze me how many famous faces you will see mingling with the public at both Queen’s and Wimbledon; that’s what I love about these tournaments.
While waiting for my press pass, BBC Commentator and Andy Murray’s former coach, Mark Petchey surprisingly needed to give his name to the girl behind the counter. Two famous commentators spotted and I hadn’t even entered the grounds yet.
I was led to the media centre directly behind centre court, shown where the press seats were situated and was greeted by the lovely Sue Barker, ex Davis Cup Captain, John Lloyd, commentator John Inverdale and former British number one, Annabel Croft congregating in the bar area – how surreal!
I found my way through the maze of stairs and corridors to the press seats to watch the first match on centre – Britain’s wild card entry, Jamie Baker versus Denis Istomin. Baker, ranked 254 in the ATP World rankings failed to get any sort of grip on the match or the slippery grass surface as he lost 6-1, 6-4, falling no less than three times on his backside, repeatedly chastising his shoes for letting him down. In the post match press conference, he looked a little forlorn as he mentioned the difficulty of “stepping up to the level of the player” he was up against. It remained to be seen whether Brits, James Ward and Alex Bogdanovic would fare any better.
During the second set of Baker’s match, I couldn’t help but notice a tanned and gorgeous Novak Djokovic strolling nonchalantly to the practice courts beneath us – knowing how close you can get to the players practicing, I rejected the nonchalance and nearly broke my leg rushing down the several flights of stairs in heels to get a prime position to watch my favourite player’s tomfoolery on the beautiful grass.
He didn’t fail to disappoint with his series of jokes, trick shots and a well timed shirt change! I wished I’d brought my tennis gear and trainers, as I have a feeling he could have sneaked me on court for a quick rally or two – well, maybe in my dreams!
After the Djoker sadly left the practice courts, I wandered back to the press seats to see if Britain’s James Ward could fare any better. He was against stiff opposition in the form of American Robbie Ginepri, who looked a little incongruous in his coloured shorts and shirt on the grass. Ward put up a decent display and should have had a convincing 5-2 lead in the second set if he’d held his serve after breaking the American in the sixth game, but instead he allowed Ginepri to come back and secure a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Ward spoke of his relationship with the new British Davis Cup Captain, Leon Smith in the post match press conference, revealing, “I’ve been in contact with Leon the whole time I was in America. I was away for seven weeks. E-mails, text messages, BBM, everything. Since I’ve been back, he’s been to see me practice a lot, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
A fellow journalist told me the Murray brothers were training on an outside court in preparation for their doubles match later that evening, so I nipped out of the media centre to watch Britain’s number one hopeful. When I arrived I barely recognized his brother Jamie, who appeared to have had an argument with his hairdresser, as he was sporting a pretty horrific crew cut fit for the army. Apparently Andy commented on Twitter, saying he hoped Jamie had kept the receipt – who said he doesn’t have a sense of humour?
Team Murray were on good form as they practiced varying volley to ground stroke drills to a heaving crowd. A Spanish coach tried to get them off the court early – on home turf – adios! French maestro, Richard Gasquet was due on Centre court so I left the Murrays to it and headed back once again up the stairs to the press seats – who said being a reporter wasn’t hard work?
Eleventh seed, Gasquet faced Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who turned out to be no push over in a 6-3, 6-3 victory for the Frenchman, whose glorious backhand was really a sight to be seen first-hand. Gasquet often needed a translator to answer journalist’s questions, but revealed he believes the French have had such a great tradition on grass due to “good technique” and the talent needed to succeed on grass rather than clay. No one could ever say he lacks talent, but it remains to be seen if he will ever weave his way like a cobra to the top ten again – his highest ranking was 7, but is now placed at 45.
Britain’s number two, Alex Bogdanovic was up next after getting through the qualifying rounds to play Bulgarian former Junior Wimbledon Champion, Grigor Dimitriv, currently ranked 360 in the ATP World rankings. Bogdanovic looked comfortable in front of his home crowd winning the first set convincingly 6-4, but lost the second 6-3. Rain stopped play at 2-1 in the third. If Bogdanovic loses the third, then Murray will be the only Britain left in the tournament – a situation he is very familiar with.
For the past eight years, a first round defeat at Wimbledon for Alex Bogdanovic following wild card entry has been as predictable as rain stopping play, but he still must have been a little bemused that he had been left out of the All England Club’s first batch of wild cards along with being denied one for the Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club this week. He has also stubbornly refused to rejoin the Davis Cup fold following his miserable performances in the past. I really do hope that tomorrow brings some much needed luck for Alex and sunshine instead of rain for my second day reporting for Tennis Grandstand. Watch this space for more news, reports and gossip from London.
Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.