And then there were none. It has not quite been a week – and a decent chunk of that has been lost to rain – but British interest in the women’s singles was ended in the Friday gloaming at Wimbledon. Tara Moore, the last of six home players in the draw, was defeated by the veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova in a rollercoaster encounter 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.
This was always going to be a tough assignment for the 23-year-old Moore. Tuesday’s first-round win was her one and only success in grand-slam competition; Kuznetsova, meanwhile, has won two grand slam titles (the 2004 US Open and 2009 French). Moore is Britain’s No4 and the world No227; Kuznetsova, 31, is Russia’s top player and the former world No2 is seeded No13 here. She has never lost to an opponent as lowly ranked as the wildcard Moore in the 55 grand slam championships she has contested.
And yet Kuznetsova was given a mighty scare on No3 Court. More than once her eyes turned to the heavens as another of Moore’s audacious forehands flashed by. In the second set especially she was blasted off the court. It was a defeat for the Hong Kong-born, America-raised Briton in the end but one she can certainly take considerable encouragement from.
“I like to be aggressive, I like to take my game to the opponent,” said Moore. “Sometimes it can go really, really well, like it did in the second set. And sometimes it can go not so well. But all credit to Svetlana. She played great. I tried my best. I threw my house at her and ultimately came back with nothing.”
If the first week of Wimbledon tells one anything it is that the difference between the stars and the journeymen and women ranked 100s of places beneath them is not so huge. It is matters of degree, a point here and there: a second serve that jumps up with more spite or just hanging in a rally. It is consistency, hard work invariably and mental fortitude.
The value of those qualities is hard to calculate but one figure is $20m, Kuznetsova’s career earnings since she turned professional in 2002.
Friday’s match began under brooding clouds with spots of rain and the outlook looked pretty ominous for Moore, too. Her serve was broken in the first game, despite her saving four break points. A downpour forced them off court soon after but when they returned Moore’s fortunes did not immediately improve. Her serve buckled twice more and the first set flashed by 6-1. She seemed perhaps a little over-pumped, often hitting long, and Kuznetsova mercilessly bullied her second serve.
Then, at the start of the second set, Moore came out and stoked up the crowd. It was full, she later revealed, with family from Doncaster and friends. Kuznetsova got spooked and Moore moved her ageing opponent around with crafty drop shots.
The third set returned to the form book, but it was already clear this was a beginning and not an end for Moore. “I’ve definitely shown that I’m ready to be here,” she said. “I think this is going to be one of many big moments in my career. I ultimately want to be here for as long as I possibly can.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010