While England’s footballers eased past the round of 16 a few miles away at Wembley, Britain’s tennis players failed to make much progress at Wimbledon. Dan Evans won but Francesca Jones, Harriet Dart and Jay Clarke all slipped to defeat.
Jones, making her first appearance in the main draw, did at least ask some questions of Coco Gauff, who charmed the Wimbledon crowds as she progressed to the fourth round as a 15-year-old in 2019 and is still, at 17, the youngest of nine teenagers in the main draw.
A couple of slips in the early stages seemed to unsettle Gauff just a little, while Jones, three years her senior, soon recovered from a hesitant opening to save a break point and then win her first service game after three deuces.
A series of increasingly comfortable holds of serve followed for both players, as they found their range with big first serves and offered few chances to their opponent to carve out an opening.
A tie-break seemed imminent until the 11th game, where a winner from Gauff and an error by Jones, who was serving, left the British player at 0-30. Gauff did brilliantly to reach a drop-shot in the next point and then lob Jones at the next, crashing away an overhead with her next shot to make it 15-40.
Jones overwhelmed Gauff with thumping forehands to save the first break point, and there was a huge cheer from home fans after the next point too. Unfortunately for Jones, it was for Harry Kane’s goal at Wembley, moments after Gauff had powered her way to the first break of the match.
Three service winners eased her path to the first set, 7-5, and the second set followed much the same pattern until the seventh game. Again, Jones saved the first of two break points with valiant defence on the baseline, but could not put away the next after Gauff’s return came back high and wild off the frame. Her next shot drifted into the tramlines and the American duly served out for the match.
“I’m just happy that I was able to come through with the win,” Gauff told the courtside interviewer. “I made sure I did what I needed to do.
“Today was tough, because it was a bit slippery and I slipped a lot of times today. [But] It feels great to have fans back, I’m just super-happy that the world is starting to get back to normal.”
There was never any sense of an impending upset on Court 18 earlier in the day, as Harriet Dart showed brief glimpses of the form that took her to the third round two years ago but only after allowing Elise Mertens, the No 13 seed, to race into a clear lead in the first set.
Dart’s service games ranged from authoritative to error-strewn with very little middle ground, and two of the latter to open the match helped Mertens to a 5-0 lead in the first set before Dart showed any sign of putting up a fight.
Two holds to love followed but Mertens had taken the set 6-1 in the meantime, and then it was back to the horror shows on serve as Dart was broken again having fought back to deuce from 0-40, and then capitulated to love two games later as a second serve went into the net. There were few nervous moments for the Belgian from that point as she completed the 6-1, 6-3 win.
“It was always going to be a challenging match against a very experienced player,” Dart said. “[I] didn’t start very well. [I] managed to get back into it in the second set. The problem is when you play such a high-ranked opponent, a lot of that is a bit too late.”
Clarke did at least exit with a set to his name, but it was the one that he secured on Monday and he could add just two more games against Egor Gerasimov as the Belarusian went through 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2.