Greg Rusedski's Wimbledon ended in the gloom at 12 minutes after nine o'clock last night, but any suggestion that his defeat by Joachim Johansson represented a dying of the light would be wide of the mark. The British No 2 gave one of his best displays of recent years before losing 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 to the Swedish No 11 seed.
After David Sherwood also went out, the home challenge is now represented by just three players, who all play their second-round matches today.
With Andrew Murray facing Radek Stepanek, the No 14 seed, and Jane O'Donoghue meeting Nathalie Dechy, the No 16 women's seed, the likelihood is that Tim Henman, who plays the world No 152 Dmitry Tursunov, will once again be the last Briton left standing by close of play tonight.
Rusedski was making his 13th successive Wimbledon appearance and attempting to add to a tally of 81 victories on grass. It is a record no other man in the draw here can match, though this is the third year in succession that he has failed to progress beyond the second round.
Yet there was no shame in defeat to Johansson, a strapping 6ft 6in Swede who last year reached the fourth round here and the semi-finals of the US Open. It was a thoroughly gripping match, though Centre Court was not a place for the squeamish. Both men sent down a barrage of blistering serves and Rusedski, in particular, was often forced into evasive action as the ball thundered towards him at head height.
Rallies were few and far between, particularly in the early stages. After the first point, won by Johansson when Rusedski put a volley wide, the next 16 points did not contain a single successful return of serve.
The only break points in the first set came in the seventh game and both were saved by Rusedski with thundering serves, one of them a 140mph special. The first tie-break, bizarrely, featured seven breaks of serve in the first 11 points, but the crucial break came at 10-10, when Johansson hit a backhand winner down the line. A 132mph ace on the next point took the set.
Rusedski, however, played with a positive attitude from the start of the second set, even daring to chip-and-charge on Johansson's second serve. Johansson made a series of errors, dropped two successive service games to hand Rusedski the second set. The momentum was now with the Briton, who had a break point in the third game of the third set, only for Johansson to save it with an ace. At 3-3, however, two double-faults gave Johansson a decisive break.
There were no breaks in the fourth set and at 5-5, Johansson queried whether the light was good enough to continue.
Alan Mills, the referee, ruled that play should go on. After the first two points of the tie-break had gone against serve, both players held until Rusedski was broken again on the first match point. It was a cruel end after a fine performance.
Sherwood, the British No 8, recorded the best result of his career when he beat Brazil's Ricardo Mello on the opening day, but his appearance in the second round lasted just 79 minutes. He was beaten 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 by Feliciano Lopez, the No 26 seed.
Spanish tennis players with a liking for grass are as rare as bullfighters in Sherwood's native Yorkshire, but it was the 25-year-old's misfortune to meet a player whose attacking game, powerful serve and smart volleying are well suited to the surface. Lopez was so confident that he was even coming into the net regularly behind his second serve.
Sherwood, who looked nervous from the start, was soon 4-0 down. There were no further breaks until the seventh game of the second set, which was a shocker for the Briton. Three poor backhands were followed by the weakest of forehands into the net. No wonder he hit the ball into the ground in anger.
Lopez broke again in the first game of the third set. Sherwood had his only break point three games later, but the 23-year-old Spaniard immediately got out of trouble with an ace. "I struggled to settle early on," Sherwood admitted afterwards. "But I'll no doubt learn a lot from it."
While Lopez goes on to face Marat Safin, the No 5 seed, Sherwood heads for next month's Challenger tournament in Nottingham, where the total prize-money will be just over £14,000, with £2,000 going to the winner. In contrast, his one victory here earned him the biggest pay cheque of his career, £15,440.
Sherwood's singles ranking stands at 261 - he has climbed 328 places in 18 months - and he has had "a little bet" with Murray and Alex Bogdanovic on which of them will first break into the world's top 100.
"It's a realistic target for a lot of us now," Sherwood said. "If we go out and carry on getting results, then I don't think it's that far away. I've got a few extra ranking points now, so I can push on and, hopefully, get into bigger and stronger tournaments."Reuse content