As Serena Williams entered the debate yesterday about the respective merits of strength and finesse in the women's game, Wimbledon said a premature farewell this year to one of its favourite exponents of the more sophisticated game, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.
The little Catalan, ranked No 13 and a runner-up in 1995 and 1996, ended her 15th campaign at the Championships as one of the few women's seeds beaten so far when she submitted to the 21-year-old American Lilia Osterloh 7-6, 7-5.
After losing a first-set tie-break, Sanchez-Vicario needed treatment to a wrist before being broken in the 11th game of the second, but gallantly denied that that was the cause of defeat. "I had a little problem, just to prevent any more pain," she said. "I didn't play my best. I made too many unforced errors. I let her play with a lot of confidence and she went for her shots and made them."
If the All England Club has seen the best of Arantxa, there may be more to come from Osterloh, who reached the fourth round there, beating Amanda Coetzer, and at the US Open last year, before breaking into the top 50. Now she has the chance to upset another Spanish seed, Conchita Martinez, not altogether convincing in beating Sandra Cacic 7-5, 6-4.
The younger Williams was serene though not satisfied in putting out Germany's Barbara Rittner 6-4, 6-0 in just under an hour. "I wasn't playing really well today so I'm gonna practice really hard," she said. "In the earlier rounds I should work on coming in and playing more of a grass court game. You're not gonna win here rallying. My volley's looking a little better and I feel comfortable coming to the net. My serve's looking a lot better. If I didn't believe I could win, I wouldn't be here."
Like Venus, she claims to be missing her dogs, Jackie and Bambi – a pit-bull. As to the pit-bull approach to tennis that some feel increasingly seems to characterise the women's game, she said: "Definitely there's more power to the game.
"But every now and then there might be that player out there that has more finesse. Finesse is still important. But tennis is 80 per cent mental, 20 per cent physical, that's my personal opinion."
Justine Henin, the frail-looking Belgian teenager seeded eighth, was in serious danger of going out to the stronger Kristie Boogert in a Belgian-Dutch derby when trailing by 7-5, 4-1, but recovered well to win in three sets. "Today I was a little bit tired and I played against a grass court player, so I'm happy to get through," she said.
She will now meet Lisa Raymond, who ended British interest in the women's event, allowing Karen Cross just one game. A day in the sun on a Wimbledon show-court may, in time, inspire a crop of British men to greater things, but, for Devon's Cross, the effect of an appearance on Court 13 yesterday was merely to confirm that retirement is the sensible option. Having initially taken that decision last November, she entered Wimbledon on a whim and a prayer, surprising no one more than herself in coming through five rounds of qualifying and then the first round proper against Yvette Basting. "I've no complaints at all," said the 27-year-old, who will now take up a coaching career. "I don't think it's the life for me any more and I've now retired for good."
Monday's headline-maker, Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual, the conqueror of Martina Hingis, found the 17-year-old Russian Lina Krasnoroutskaya a different kettle of paella and had to be consigned to the small print and the memory-bank after losing 6-3, 7-6.
With Hingis and Sanchez-Vicario ousted, the upper quarter of the draw is the only one to have opened up at all thus far. Possible beneficiaries include Elena Dementieva, Henin or Raymond.Reuse content