Champion Kvitova through, Robson out
Tennis:Francesca Schiavone came from a set down to break Laura Robson's heart in a thrilling first-round clash at Wimbledon.Robson is ranked 71 places below world number 26 Schiavone, but champion Petra Kvitova wins in two sets.
Whether it was the swathes of empty seats to greet her arrival or her sluggish movement and frequently misdirected groundstrokes, there was little in Petra Kvitova's first round victory to suggest she was the defending Wimbledon champion.
In contrast to number one seed Maria Sharapova, who treated a packed Centre Court to a regal display on Monday, the Czech showed little superstar quality as she nervously moved into the second round with a 6-4 6-4 win over Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova.
It is 12 months since the number four seed upset Sharapova to claim the title, but she looked ill-at-ease in the role of champion as she strolled out on Tuesday to begin her title defence. It ended happily with the Czech saluting Centre Court with a smile and a wave, but it began in a flurry of unforced errors.
"I was nervous," she said during a rather swift press conference that extended to just three questions. "It was first time for me to be as the defending champion of the grand slam. It was huge honour to come to the Centre Court. Of course I would like to make everyone happy, but it's not that easy.
"She looked less than happy in the opening games as she was broken early by the world number 96 and was twice just one point away from falling a double break behind.There was a hint of ruthless arrogance in the way Sharapova dispatched Anastasia Rodionova, but Kvitova was edgy and almost diffident. Her movement was poor and the mistakes were multiplying, but her superior power meant an upset never felt likely providing she could find her range.
At 4-1 down in the first set she finally started to put it all together and she won five games in a row to win the opening set and the second was more straightforward. A rain delay threatened to cause the first appearance of the Wimbledon roof, but the giant mechanical structure was held back as the swift shower passed and Kvitova returned to court to finish off her opponent.
"It was lot of firsts for me today but I'm happy that I stayed calm inside and not to be panic in the important points," she said. Next up for Kvitova is a second round clash against Britain's Elena Baltacha or Italy's Karin Knapp.
Despite needing treatment for what looked like a back injury, Schiavone regained her composure and survived break point in the second set before running out a 2-6 6-4 6-4 winner. Robson earned a huge standing ovation when she left Court Two, and despite showing flashes of brilliance, the ambitious teenager will no doubt see this as a missed opportunity to claim a huge scalp against a woman who was once ranked fourth in the world.
Robson showed no sign of nerves early on as she clinched her first game to love, but 24th seed Schiavone then showed her experience by doing exactly the same. Robson engineered a break point in the fourth game with a powerful forehand return and grabbed the opportunity, forcing Schiavone to net after a thrilling rally.
Nerves then appeared to get to Robson as the seventh went to 0-30 but she responded in style, firing down a 113mph ace to rescue the game and move 5-2 ahead. It was Schiavone who was to suffer from nerves next, as she wasted a 40-15 lead when saving to stay in the set. The Italian was forced to deuce and a powerful return and a double fault gave the home favourite the set after 25 minutes.
The match came to a halt when Schiavone went off court for treatment on her injury. After around 15 minutes, she reappeared. Robson was initially unfazed by the disruption, holding her serve before almost forcing another break in the second game.
Schiavone needed yet more treatment and afforded Robson three break points in the sixth game. To the frustration of the partisan crowd, she spurned all three chances, her last two shots going wide by millimetres. Schiavone made Robson pay by breaking in the next game, the teenager sending a cross-court backhand just wide after a tense rally.
The 32-year-old Italian was using every trick in the book to put her opponent out of her stride, grunting, shouting, challenging calls and taking her towel when Robson was ready to serve. She held easily to take the second set and Robson crumbled in the opening game of the third, weakly netting on Schiavone's second break point.
The dogged determination Robson had displayed in the first set had disappeared and she double-faulted twice in a row to hand Schiavone her second break in the third.
Robson saved two match points and then stunned her opponent by breaking, but Schiavone already had the break she needed and she nervously served out to seal Italy's second sporting triumph in three days.