South stunned by grunting prodigy

British women's No 3 capitulates to Portuguese 16-year-old at French Open

Mel South was leading 6-0, 1-0 here at the French Open yesterday when Nick Bollettieri gave his verdict on Michelle Larcher de Brito, the British No 3's Portuguese opponent, who is one of the most promising pupils at his Florida academy. "She's a great fighter," said Bollettieri, who was watching from the sidelines out on Court 14. "She never gives up. If she can just win a game she'll build on that. Don't count her out."

Nearly two hours later Bollettieri was nodding in approval as 16-year-old Larcher de Brito celebrated a remarkable 0-6, 7-6, 7-5 win on a day when all three British women went out in the first round. Anne Keothavong suffered a crushing 6-0, 6-0 defeat by Dinara Safina, the world No 1, while Katie O'Brien lost 6-1, 6-1 to Olga Govortsova.

South's exit was especially disappointing given her form in the first set, which she took in just 22 minutes with a succession of crashing ground strokes. At 1-0 and 30-30 in the second set, however, South served a double fault and then put a volley long to let Larcher de Brito back into the match. A contest that featured 17 breaks of serve swayed one way and then the other, but South, having failed to serve out at 5-4 in the second set, repeatedly had to come from behind in the decider and eventually lost on her opponent's fifth match point.

Larcher de Brito is playing in her first senior Grand Slam event but is already armed with lucrative endorsements, a loud grunt, an American accent and on-court antics that might have infuriated a less phlegmatic opponent. Almost every winner, not to mention some of South's mistakes, was greeted by screams of "C'mon!" or exaggerated fist pumps.

However, there were no complaints from her opponent. "I'd seen her before on YouTube," South said after the match. "I expected there would be some pretty loud screams, which actually got louder as the match went on. She's a pretty feisty opponent."

South, a 23-year-old from Surrey who lives near the All England Club at Wimbledon, is a formidable ball striker, but knows she needs to work on her fitness. In recent weeks she has been working at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton with Jez Green, one of Andy Murray's team, and believes she is already feeling the benefits.

Bollettieri was impressed with South. "She can serve well and has very good ground strokes," he said. "She moves well for a big girl, but you can see that lateral movement is a problem for her. Whenever she's pushed out wide she can struggle."

No British woman has won a match here since 1994, when Clare Wood beat Gigi Fernandez in the first round, and the best chance of that run ending vanished when Keothavong was drawn against Safina. The Russian, runner-up here 12 months ago, is in outstanding form and had too much power for the British No 1, who admitted she was nervous at the start. Keothavong had her chances to get on the scoreboard, particularly in the fourth game of the second set, when she was 40-0 up but then put a forehand into the net and served two double faults.

O'Brien, who got into the main draw as a "lucky loser" thanks to a withdrawal, never got going against Govortsova, a 20-year-old from Belarus who is 35 places higher in the world rankings at No 78. The match was over in less than an hour with O'Brien unable to take any of her three break points.

Maria Sharapova, in the second week of her comeback following shoulder surgery, made a shaky start against Anastasiya Yakimova before winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. She now meets a fellow Russian, Nadia Petrova.

Perfection in Paris: Nadal sets record

*Rafael Nadal, unbeaten here since making his debut four years ago, set a French Open record when he won his 29th match in succession yesterday, beating Brazil's Marcos Daniel 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. "I obviously wasn't at my best level, but I started to play better in the third set," he said afterwards.

Roger Federer, beaten by Nadal in the last three finals here, beat Alberto Martin 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Italy's Potito Starace will meet Andy Murray after his opponent, Mischa Zverev, retired hurt.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
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.

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home