Having heaved from his broad back the gorilla that was a winless record from his first 12 grand slams, Marinko Matosevic has now enjoyed success in his past two. At last month’s French Open, Matosevic rolled for joy in the red clay after beating German Dustin Brown in the first round; at Wimbledon, he has impressively serve-volleyed his way past 18th seed Fernando Verdasco.
Even after predictably losing to Andy Murray in the second round in Paris, Matosevic said the Brown breakthrough had released him to play more freely, so conscious of his poor record at the big four tournaments had the 28-year-old Victorian become. And so it proved against the verteran Verdasco, beaten 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 at his 12th Wimbledon. The Spanish left-hander's best result was as a quarter-finalist last year, when he led Andy Murray by two sets to love.
For Matosevic, in his fourth consecutive visit to the main draw, it was a more conventional victory celebration than at Roland Garros. After the last of his 11 aces, a ball was belted to the heavens, before an aeroplane-like gesture more often seen on the soccer pitch, his arms spread wide. The draw has also opened a little, given his opponent’s seeded status, for the first Australian winner of the 11 to make it to the Wimbledon starting line.
Coached by former accomplished grass-courter Mark Woodforde, Matosevic was successful with 33 of his 52 net approaches, and converted five of 12 break points. The world No.58 was determined to play aggressively, and stuck to his game plan continuing a successful grasscourt season that started with a finals appearance in Nottingham, and some seed-slaying at Queen’s Club that was overshadowed by his comments about female coaches and his disregard for the women’s game.
His curious performance in the Wimbledon interview room also raised some eyebrows, though, for Matosevic complained of feeling sleepy, and seemed barely able to summon responses to a number of routine questions. It was unedifying, to say the least.
One of the few answers that lasted more than a dozen words was one about the influence of Woodforde, who has been preaching the benefits of playing what he calls "grasscourt tennis", and Matosevic reaping the rewards.
"I worked with him before. Since we started working together again, he's big on playing attacking tennis," Matosevic said. "He really focused on this grass court season. On hardcourt be tougher to do, but play to win, play grass court tennis. It's paying off so far."
Verdasco aside, another early seeded casualty was American No.18 Sloane Stephens, beaten 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) by Russian Maria Kirilenko. Stephens had entered Wimbledon as the only woman to reach at least the round of 16 at the past four grand slams.