THE FIVE-STRONG British contingent in action on day one of the Australian Open may have been unusually large, but there was something crushingly familiar about the players’ resounding and uniform first-round defeats.
Teenagers Heather Watson and Laura Robson were blown away by seeds Victoria Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic, British No1 Elena Baltacha fell in straight sets to an opponent ranked 53 places lower, while Anne Keothavong trailed 6-0 when she retired ill. James Ward – the only British man in the singles draw aside from Andy Murray – fared no better against world No103 Blaz Kavcic, as all five Britons bowed out without winning a single set.
It means Murray (inset), who plays American Ryan Harrison in his first round match this morning, is the sole Briton left in either singles competition, despite there being a 20-year high number in the main draw.
Guernsey 19-year-old Watson, who had a heavily strapped ankle, proved no match for third seed Azarenka, losing to the Belarussian 6-1, 6-0 in just over an hour. Robson, 17, was similarly overwhelmed 6-2, 6-0 by 13th seed Jankovic.
Baltacha had been fancied to beat Stephanie Foretz Gacon but suffered an awful start against the Frenchwoman and lost 6-2, 6-4, before Keothavong, who had been struck down by food poisoning on the eve of the grand slam, retired while a set down to Germany’s Mona Barthel.
Murray will be looking to join the stellar likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who negotiated their first hurdles with minimal fuss yesterday, in round two today.
The Scot, who is still looking for his first grand slam title, has been runner-up at the Australian Open for the last two years running. He has not won a single set in three grand slam final appearances.