Male British voices have been as rare at the French Open this week as teetotal vegetarians in a Parisian brasserie. Andy Murray, who plays Potito Starace here in today's second round, is the lone Briton in the main draw. Alex Bogdanovic and Josh Goodall, the only Britons who played in the qualifying tournament, won one match between them.
While Murray has climbed to No 3 in the world after winning 32 matches this year, the next nine Britons in the rankings have played five matches between them at the same level and won only once. Even at Challenger level and above they have won a total of just 37 matches in 2009.
Murray is not impressed. "The first four or five months of this year have been very poor," the 22-year-old Scot said. "They have won so few matches. James Ward won a Challenger but before that they'd struggled. Dan Evans has won a Challenger, but since then has not done anything. It's about sustaining it." He added: "If someone does well at Wimbledon and makes the third round, they should keep everything rolling, not just sit back and think it's great, because it's not. You can't just win a tournament and expect everything to be given to you."
That message may be getting through to the British authorities. The Aegon Championships at Queen's Club has awarded only two of its five wild cards to Britons (Ward and Goodall), while the Lawn Tennis Association recommends that only players ranked in the world's top 250 should be considered for a free passage into the main draw at Wimbledon.
Murray's thoughts today will be focused on beating Starace, whose world ranking has steadily declined since he served a six-week suspension last year for betting misdemeanours. The 27-year-old Italian, down to No 104 from a career-high No 27, was also fined $30,000 (£18,800) for placing bets totalling just $130 (£82). None of the bets were on his own matches.
In yesterday's play Serena Williams, the world No 2, survived a remarkable encounter against Klara Zakopalova, the No 100. Williams led 6-3, 5-3 but wasted five match points before the Czech took the second set. From 5-2 down in the decider Zakopalova saved three more match points before Williams finally closed out the match after two hours and 25 minutes, winning 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.