Tennis: Wimbledon: Forceful display has Richardson off mark

Guy Hodgson on a superb start for the British No 5 but disappointment for the first home player to lose yesterday
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The Independent Online
When Andrew Richardson used to stay in London, he usually ended up on the floor of Tim Henman's flat. The Hilton it is not, but if he is looking for a precedent for success at Wimbledon, there is one. John McEnroe, tantrums apart, may have been nearly flawless as a tennis player, but it does not mean he was not floored.

McEnroe shared a room with fellow American Eliot Teltscher when he arrived to qualify for Wimbledon in 1977, a room that had only one bed in it. Someone had to sleep on the carpet and they took it in turns until the future three-times champion made it to the semi-finals. By then, he was earning enough to afford a room of his own.

Richardson, the 23-year-old British No 5, would not put himself anywhere near McEnroe's class, but he won his first match at Wimbledon yesterday to join Henman, a friend since he was 10, in the second round. A swift victory it was, too, beating Spain's Sergi Duran 7-6, 6-3, 6-3.

"I didn't think I returned that well at the beginning," he said, "but I took my chances in the second and third sets. I served very well. It makes life so much easier.''

At 6ft 7in, it does not take a genius to work out that the serve in Richardson's principal weapon. He is ranked 233 in the world, but on grass that is a false position, particularly when you begin a point well in excess of 110mph. Duran had hardly a hope of returning consistently, gained only four points on his opponent's serve until the tie-break, and once that had been lost, he dissolved.

"If I play well then I've always got a chance against most players," Richardson said. "I've nothing to lose, just go for it. Wimbledon has the sort of atmosphere where I play my best tennis. I can go out there and relax. Give it a go.

"The only target I've set myself is to play well. If I do that, win or lose, I'll be happy.''

As for Henman, he has been both housed and roused by him. "He used to let me stay at his flat, on his floor," he said. "It was kind of him. I had nowhere to stay." Did you do the cleaning to pay the rent? "Yes, right.

"I've grown up with Tim and his doing so well has inspired me. There are a few British guys coming through and I think that has something to do with his and Greg Rusedski's success."

While Richardson was sampling success at the All England Club for the first time, Julie Pullin was learning tennis can be cruel. You wait all year to get a chance to play at Wimbledon and, barely before the championships have started, you are already packing your bags.

Pullin was the first home player to taste defeat, losing 6-1, 6-3 in 63 minutes to Magdalena Maleeva. "I'm so very disappointed," she said. "I didn't bring my game on to the court, I didn't test her. We have to play our top game to get into a dog-fight, but I didn't give myself a chance.''

The 21-year old from Leicester was broken to love in her first service game and would have succumbed even more quickly if she had not withstood six break points on the fourth game and then broke Maleeva with defeat staring her so much in her face it was intimidating.

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