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Wed Apr 16 12:13:34 SAST 2014

Kvitova struggles as US pride is restored

Dave James, Sapa-AFP | 26 June, 2012 17:200 Comments
The Championships - Wimbledon 2012: Day Two
Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic hits a backhand return during her first round match against Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan on day two of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 26, 2012 in London, England
Image by: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Defending champion Petra Kvitova overcame early nerves to reach the Wimbledon second round on Tuesday while comeback kings Mardy Fish and Bryan Baker restored some national pride for the United States.

Kvitova pulled off a 6-4, 6-4 win over Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan, but the 22-year-old did it the hard way.

The Czech fought back from 3-0 and 4-1 down in the first set before seeing off Amanmuradova, who has now lost all her five first round appearances at the tournament.

Once Kvitova had reeled off seven successive games to take the first set and lead 2-0 in the second, she was comfortably in control, managing to shrug off a brief rain delay 5-3 and deuce in the second set.

“It’s unbelievable to come back as defending champion,” said Kvitova, who started her 2011 title-winning campaign out on Court 15.

“I was nervous at the start. On grass you never know what to expect from me.” 

World number four Kvitova will now face either Italy’s Karin Knapp or Elena Baltacha for a place in the last 32.

Meanwhile, American hopes, which were so badly bruised by the opening day exits of five-time champion Venus Williams and big-serving John Isner, were boosted by Fish and Baker.

Fish made a winning return to tennis in his first match following a procedure to address a frightening heart scare.

The world number 12 beat Spain’s Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 7-6 (7/1) and looked comfortable moving around the court.

It was his first tournament appearance since April, when, as top seed, he fell at the first hurdle in Houston.

Suffering from arrhythmia, he then underwent surgery to correct faulty wiring in his heart.

Fish said the had made it hard for him to sleep and his heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest.

Meanwhile, Baker, who lost six years of his career to an assortment of injuries and underwent five operations, clinched a first ever win at Wimbledon, beating Portugal’s Rui Machado 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-0.

The 27-year-old reached the second round of the French Open last month in what was his first Grand Slam appearance since the 2005 US Open.

And his good run continued at the All England Club where he came through three rounds of qualifying to make the main draw.

He will next tackle Jarkko Nieminen of Finland for a place in the last 32.

“I’d be lying if I sat here and said that I expected all this to happen right now when I was going through all those surgeries,” said Baker.

“But I never gave up the hope that I would be able to come back. I was always confident in my abilities that if I was ever able to stay healthy that I would have success.

“I don’t think I ever imagined that at this point last year that I was going to be playing both at the French and Wimbledon. It’s been a pleasant surprise, and hopefully I can continue the momentum and play well.” 

Later Tuesday, two-time winner Rafael Nadal starts his campaign while veterans Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt ride an emotional wave of support.

Nadal, fresh from his record-breaking seventh French Open title, tackles Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci on Centre Court before Britain’s Andy Murray, semi-finalist for the last three years, takes on Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko.

Hewitt, the champion in 2002 but needing a wildcard to play this year, faces French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Roger Federer on to his way to the semi-finals last year.

Roddick, three times a runner-up, begins against Britain’s Jamie Baker buoyed by winning the Eastbourne grasscourt title last weekend.

Also in action on day two are women’s second seed Victoria Azarenka who faces America’s Irina Falconi and fellow former number one Caroline Wozniacki who meets Tamira Paszek, the women’s champion in Eastbourne.

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Kvitova struggles as US pride is restored

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