Cavaday's comet burns then fades in shadow of Venus

Naomi Cavaday is the Halley's Comet of British sport. For months on end the 19-year-old from Chislehurst hurtles around the tennis universe, noticed by nobody in particular, before making a spectacular but fleeting appearance in the Wimbledon sky. The latest sighting was here on Centre Court, where she briefly threatened to eclipse Venus only to disappear over the horizon once again.

In the first round here 12 months ago Cavaday had two match points against Martina Hingis. Yesterday the world No 197 did not get as close to knocking out Venus Williams, the defending champion, but outplayed her for 20 minutes before the American showed all her customary tenacity to win 7-6, 6-1. Williams now plays another Briton, Anne Keothavong.

This was only Cavaday's fifth tournament at senior tour level. While injuries and illness have restricted her outings this year, she has picked up useful ranking points from tournaments at obscure tennis outposts like New Delhi and Patras in Greece.

Williams has played in only seven events this year and has yet to reach a final, but past experience tells you never to write her off. When she won here three years ago she was the lowest-ranked (No 16) and lowest-seeded (No 14) champion in Wimbledon history, a record she broke last year as the world No 31 and No 23 seed.

The 28-year-old American lost to Flavia Pennetta in the third round of the French Open, but Williams has grown accustomed to turning up at the All England Club after a fruitless clay-court season. Her crunching serve, thunderous groundstrokes and assured volleys deliver a far greater dividend on grass.

For four games, nevertheless, Williams was outhit by a teenager finding the form of her life. Breaking Williams' serve in the opening game, Cavaday raced into a 3-1 lead by going for her shots. Her cross-court backhands were a particularly potent weapon, while Williams had trouble dealing with both the weight of her serves and the slice that kept the ball low and swung it away from her backhand.

Williams broke back to 3-3, but Cavaday took the set into a tie-break. The Briton made a crucial mistake at 4-5 by putting an easy backhand in the net and, although a service winner saved the first set point Williams took the second with a clever serve into the Briton's body.

The first set lasted just under an hour, but the second was over after only 21 minutes. After the opening game Cavaday won only five more points and just one (a double-fault) in Williams' last three service games.

"In the first set I was matching her shot for shot," Cavaday said. "I really enjoyed it. Then the second set got away from me a little bit. I think she started to relax." Asked whether she had suffered any nerves, Cavaday said: "As soon as I walked on court I was pretty relaxed. I was comfortable, even playing against Venus. I felt I belonged there."

Despite the encouragement Cavaday could draw from this performance, however, the pattern of the match was all too familiar. Opponents frequently have early trouble dealing with Cavaday's left-handed game, but as they get used to it the Briton finds it hard to find another dimension to her play.

There are also physical issues. Cavaday can wilt badly in the latter stages and appears to be carrying too much poundage for someone aspiring to compete with the world's best. Having lost weight last year, she has put it back on in subsequent months.

Williams nevertheless refused to criticise Cavaday's level of fitness. "I thought she moved pretty well," the world No 7 said. "She got a lot more balls back than I was expecting."

peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine