Guy McCrea’s Wimbledon Diary: Day 1/Monday 25 June
The first day of the Wimbledon women’s draw and one name dominated – Venus Williams. Sadly for the five-time former champion, not for reasons she would have liked. Although Venus typically offered no excuses after her opening round exit to Russia’s Elena Vesnina, my overriding thought while commentating the match on Number 2 Court for BBC Radio was how Venus just didn’t seem herself throughout. Whether that was due to her ongoing auto-immune disease, or something else, who knows – but it was still sad to see one of the WTA’s greatest-ever grass-court players struggle so much.
Props to Matt Cronin of tennisreporters.net – one of the few journalists I talked to beforehand in Wimbledon’s press centre who predicted Vesnina would play Venus tough. The result itself was one no-one really expected though and it certainly provided a disbelieving buzz around the grounds for the rest of the afternoon.
It’s always great fun to be able to talk tennis with Nick Bollettieri, the legendary coach who helped form the careers of Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic and many others. I first met Nick three years ago when working for Radio Wimbledon and it was good to talk again on day one. I was especially taken by how full of praise Bollettieri was for another of his former academy pupils, Heather Watson: ‘a lovely girl, she always had a great attitude’ he told me. The young British woman also impressed late on day one, scoring her first Wimbledon main draw win with victory over world number 55 Iveta Benesova. In doing so, Watson became the first British woman to win a match on Wimbledon’s world-famous Centre Court since Jo Durie 27 years ago.
I don’t know if it was just me – but there didn’t seem to be quite as many people crammed into the hallowed All England Club as in previous years. The official numbers may differ on this – but you’re normally used to packed courts everywhere at Wimbledon in the first week. This time though, there were regularly clusters of empty seats around many of the outside showcourts for both women’s and men’s matches. It will be interesting to see if this was just a blip.
One other story that caught my attention on day one here was about the WTA’s plans to deal with player grunting during matches. It is a subject which divides opinion among tennis fans, players and media alike. Personally, I don’t have an issue with it and think there are far greater problems in tennis than this one. Plus, it is just as much of an issue on the ATP World Tour. The only difference is that the women are operating at a higher decibel level than the men – but to me, it seems grossly unfair to constantly single out WTA players for this, but unfortunately that is all-too-often the case.
Guy McCrea commentates on WTA tennis for television and radio. Follow Guy on twitter: @GuyMcCreaTennis