Considering she was on the brink of the first victory by a British woman on these courts for 11 years it was perhaps understandable that the moment seemed to get the better of Anne Keothavong on her first match point here yesterday. A double-fault, however, was immediately followed by an ace as the British No 1 completed an emphatic 6-2, 6-2 victory over Alexa Glatch in the first round of the US Open.
Keothavong (right) recently reached No 76 in the world rankings and, although she has slipped 11 places in the last month, the 24-year-old Londoner is still the most successful British woman player for a decade.
She did not need to be at her best to beat Glatch, the world No 254, but the 18-year-old American had both home advantage and the benefit of three victories in the qualifying competition. "It was my first win in a Grand Slam tournament outside Wimbledon, so it was obviously very special," Keothavong said afterwards. "It was a solid performance. She's a bit of an awkward player and had three matches under her belt here, so she wasn't to be underestimated. I think I handled the situation pretty well. It wasn't nerves on the first match point. I just went for it a bit on the second serve. The ace on the second match point made up for it."
After a nervous start Keothavong got the better of three breaks of serve in the opening five games. From 2-2 she won four games in a row, taking the first set on her second set point after Glatch hit a return out.
After breaking to go 2-1 up in the second set Keothavong dropped her game to love in the next game when the umpire overruled a line judge to call her forehand out, but responded in admirable fashion to take the next four games and the match. In the second round she will play Italy's Francesca Schiavone, the No 25 seed, who beat Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives 7-5, 7-5.
Keothavong has played in countries as far apart as India, Croatia, Lebanon and Greece over the last six months, but had never experienced anything quite like the hubbub that surrounds any match at Flushing Meadows. Her tie was played on Court 10, which is not the most remote of the outside courts here but incorporates the essence of the US Open.
Fans come and go as they wish and on the rare occasions when they are quiet you can be sure it will coincide with the noise of an aircraft from nearby La Guardia airport. There were big queues outside the court, but they were spectators waiting in line for the adjoining Carnegie Deli and Ben & Jerry's ice cream stall.
"I've only ever played in qualifying rounds here in previous years," Keothavong said. "Today there was a lot more noise, a lot more going on. You could hear the announcements from Arthur Ashe Court and you could smell the burgers. It was very different to Wimbledon."
A good proportion of the crowd were Keothavong's family and friends. She was watched by her mother and father, two brothers and sister, as well as four relatives who had flown in from Chicago and a cousin and friends who live in New York.
Sam Smith, who was watching from the sidelines in her role as a TV commentator, was the last British woman to win a match here, in 1997.
She lost in the first round the following year, which until Keothavong earned a place in the main draw at Wimbledon this summer was the last occasion on which a British woman had played at a Grand Slam tournament other than via a wild card or qualifying competition.
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