Hantuchova to provide tough test for Robson
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Saturday 20 June 2009
Laura Robson has been handed a tough draw against Daniela Hantuchova, herself once a teenage prodigy, in the first round of the women's singles. The 15-year-old Briton will become the youngest Wimbledon competitor since 1995 when she takes on the unseeded Slovakian, who will be playing in her ninth Championships and reached the last eight aged 19.
Hantuchova, who lists grass as her favourite surface and Wimbledon her favourite tournament, has become something of a doubles specialist since the success of her early years. In partnership with Ai Sugiyama, the 26-year-old reached the finals of the Australian Open earlier this year where they were beaten by the Williams's sisters, and she became only the second woman after Martina Navratilova to claim a mixed doubles title at all four Grand Slams when she won at Roland Garros in 2005.
Hantuchova remains a capable, if erratic, singles performer and is currently ranked 33 in the world. She reached the third round in Australia, where she was seeded, but lost in the first round at the French Open. Her overall form in singles this season has fluctuated following her poor campaign last year which ended with her ranked outside the top 20 for the first time since 2004.
It was as a 19-year-old in 2002 that Hantuchova, a graduate of the Bollettieri Academy, first made her mark, having turned professional three years earlier. She beat Justine Henin and Martina Hingis en route to winning at Indian Wells. Her best performance at SW19 followed as she knocked out Jelena Dockic before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams in the quarter-finals. Williams also knocked her out of the US Open in the last eight later that year. But she has never truly matched that early expectation.
Robson won junior Wimbledon last year and was handed a wild card into this year's senior draw for the singles and doubles. She will become the youngest player at the All England Club since Martina Hingis.
The British women's number one Anne Keothavong will face Austria's Patricia Mayr, ranked 81 in the world to Keothavong's 49. Mayr will be making her first appearance at Wimbledon. Keothavong's record on her home turf is modest, having reached the second round only twice in eight attempts, but she will expect to beat the 22-year-old.
Among the other British women, Mel South meets Mathilde Johansson of Sweden who has played one, lost one at Wimbledon, while Katie O'Brien is paired against Iveta Benesova – the Czech has lost in the first round in six of her seven outings at the Championships but is ranked 35th to O'Brien's 108. Elena Baltacha, Britain's second highest ranked women at 105, plays Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine. They have met once before on grass, with Baltacha beating the world number 32 in straight sets at Edgbaston in 2005. Georgie Stoop, Robson's doubles partner, will have her work cut out against number seven seed Vera Zvonareva.
Elsewhere in the women's draw, the Williams sisters once again cannot meet before the final. Second seed Serena will begin against Portuguese qualifier Neuza Silva and could face a quarter-final against Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion but currently struggling for any consistency after her return from a long-term shoulder injury. The top-half of the draw looks more dangerous for Venus since Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova could all lie in wait. Kuznetsova first takes on Japan's Akiko Morigami and could run into Safina in the last eight in a repeat of the Roland Garros final.
Andy Murray apart, the home interest in the men's draw is likely to be fleeting. Josh Goodall is perhaps best placed to cause an upset. The 23-year-old plays Michael Llodra of France, who has been an habitual early departer in his eight years at Wimbledon. Then again, Goodall's record will not cause Llodra to lose any sleep, the Briton having played three, lost three.
Jamie Ward has a daunting debut: the 22-year-old will be up against seventh seed Fernando Verdasco. Dan Evans takes on 12th seed Nikolay Davydenko and Alex Bogdanovic plays Tomas Berdych, who is seeded 21st.
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