Mauresmo idles through under gaze of invited idols

On the 40th anniversary of the first colour transmission on British television - the first day of the 1967 Wimbledon championships - a curiously muted, colourless match was served up on Centre Court by the defending women's champion Amélie Mauresmo, seeded four, and the 28th seed Mara Santangelo.

Mauresmo won easily enough, 6-1, 6-2 in under an hour, but in less emphatic style than her male counterpart, Roger Federer, the evening before. She will have to raise her game against her probable next opponent, Nicole Vaidisova, although Santangelo did not offer much of a challenge. You can only beat what's in front of you.

It was as if the miserable weather - it had been alternately drizzling and bucketing down from early morning until mid-afternoon - had dampened the spirits of both players and most of the crowd. There were a few desultory cries of "Allez, Amélie!" but even the great enthusiast himself, Sir Bobby Robson, sitting in the front row of the Royal Box, looked less than engrossed.

It has become traditional on Middle Saturday to invite sporting heroes to sit in the Royal Box. Indeed, footballing Sir Bobbies alone made up almost 10 per cent of the front row. Sir Bobby Charlton sat bang in the middle; in fact, the Duke of Kent appeared to have deferred to him by moving along a bit, as well he should. Earlier, on BBC television, Sue Barker had tried gamely to move the wet-weather coverage along with archive sequences and musical montages. The pick of the fillers was an interview with the 1947 champion Jack Kramer, now 85, who recalled that the final that year was held up for 15 minutes because King George VI had been delayed in traffic.

Sports stars are the new royalty, of course, and also on the guest list were Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Dame Kelly Holmes, Jonathan Edwards, Martina Navratilova, Virginia Wade, Clive Lloyd, Beth Tweddle, Bernard Gallacher, and, erm, Dawn French, whose sporting achievements, one suspects, are limited to putting the Terry's Chocolate Orange.

As for the tennis, Mauresmo never looked anything but a sure thing. At 1-4 and 30-15 in the first set, with just a sniff of a chance of getting back into contention, her Italian opponent missed a volley at the net that Kramer even now could have put away in his sleep. So could Dawn French, probably. It was a surprise, because Santangelo won the doubles at the French Open this year and could hardly have done so without sharp reflexes at the net, but at the same time it was perhaps her doubles pedigree that made her land the ball in the tramlines so often.

Whatever, the miss clearly rattled her - she followed it with a double-fault, lost the game, and moments later Mauresmo wrapped up the set with a 113mph ace.

The champion unleashed 11 aces in all, but none faster than that one. Most were slower, achieved with direction and placement rather than raw power.

She will take great heart from that, likewise from a stunning bit of athleticism to save a break point when serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set. Responding to a delicate drop shot, a rare piece of guile by Santangelo, Mauresmo scampered from the back of the court and somehow conjured an exquisitely angled winner. The crowd including both Sir Bobbies, applauded long and hard. Mauresmo, who underwent appendix surgery in March, must have been quietly delighted.

With Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova in her half of the draw, she knows the second week will test her to the limit. Her limit, however, is less easily reached than it used to be. The uncertainty caused by the bad weather, she said afterwards, would once have played havoc with her head.

"My experience nowadays helps me to avoid being stressed out when I am not able to play," she said, adding that she intends, even against committed baseliners, to persist with her natural serve-and-volley game. "It worked for me last year so I'm not going to change anything."

Allez, Amélie!


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.

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent