Dementieva out on a mixed day for the Russians

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The Independent Online

Boris Yeltsin didn't pick a good day. The former Russian President's appearance on the outside courts - despite possessing a ticket for the Royal Box on Centre - was to trail his countrymen (and women) but it coincided with the exit of two of the highest-ranked women's seeds. Both Elena Dementieva, the sixth seed and the highest to go so far, and last year's quarter-finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova, ranked eighth, crashed out in three sets.

Boris Yeltsin didn't pick a good day. The former Russian President's appearance on the outside courts - despite possessing a ticket for the Royal Box on Centre - was to trail his countrymen (and women) but it coincided with the exit of two of the highest-ranked women's seeds. Both Elena Dementieva, the sixth seed and the highest to go so far, and last year's quarter-finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova, ranked eighth, crashed out in three sets.

The exit of Dementieva was something of a surprise even if she admittedly hates grass, only arrived at Wimbledon on Monday and has probably the weakest, and squeakiest, serve on the circuit (as she went on to confirm in a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 defeat). That she lost to Sandra Kleinova, ranked 129th in the world, was more the shock. This is the 26-year-old Czech's seventh Wimbledon - but she has never previously gone beyond the first round. Given she was hampered by a swollen knee, which needed the attention of the trainer, her win was all the more impressive. Dementieva may have reached the final of the French Open but simply did not prepare for yesterday and capped it all with a double-fault on her own serve as she faced match point.

Minutes later and Kuznetsova, Martina Navratilova's doubles partner, was also out even though she won more points and served 11 more aces. Kuznetsova is a strapping 18-year-old with a thumping forehand who, only last week, won on the grass at Eastbourne. Her aggressive, attacking tennis is ideal for this surface but she fell at the first against Virginie Razzano, the world No 118 of France, who admits that her superstition is never to consult the draw before she plays. At least she got to the right court to beat the hard-working Kuznetsova 7-6, 3-6, 6-4.

A third Russian, and a third seed, the 10th-rated Nadia Petrova fared better. She was also pushed to three sets before beating Flavia Pennetta of Italy, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Petrova, a semi-finalist in last year's French Open, deserves some fortune having twice in the last three years collided with Venus Williams at Wimbledon (although she beat Serena in March). Petrova, an adept giant-killer herself, could be a danger. Her game is suited to grass as is her temperament.

Another to watch out for is, undoubtedly, a revitalised Daniela Hantuchova, the 21-year-old from Slovakia who confessed yesterday that she was relieved to be out of the seeds, and out of the limelight.

"It takes a lot of the pressure away from me," she said. That may not last long if she continues to brush aside opponents with the ease that she beat American Samantha Reeves yesterday, 6-1 6-4. Her first serve is a strong weapon on grass.

Hantuchova was, not so long ago, ranked as high as five in the world and made a painful, tearful departure in the second round last year when she threw away match points amid rumours of an eating disorder as her weight plummeted. Hantuchova scorched on to the scene but then appeared burnt out but has looked healthier, stronger and happier of late. After slipping out of the top 50 Hantuchova has rehabilitated herself and last week was the impressive defeated finalist at Eastbourne. "I think everyone saw it last year that I was struggling a little bit and that things were not going the way I wanted to," she admitted.

Elena Bovina, another Russian and the No 20 seed, was given little problem against Romanian Edina Gallovits, coming through in straight sets 6-1, 6-2 while Patty Schnyder, the 15th seed from Switzerland swept past Akiko Morigami of Japan 6-4, 6-1.

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