The Cinch Championships at Queen’s opened this year’s edition featuring four Brits on their magnificent centre court with Cameron Norrie taking the main spotlight to the delight of the first-day spectators who filled the stands.
I was glad to see the forehand fly long at the end. It is always tricky in the first match on grass and there are a few things to work on, but I enjoyed that Cameron Norrie
Ryan Peniston, the British No.7, opened proceedings and quickly took command to dispatch Frenchman Ugo Humbert in 84-minutes, 6-4 6-2 for his first Tour level victory since Wimbledon last year, though he did win a round at the Challenger events at both Surbiton and Nottingham in the weeks leading up to Queen’s.
Peniston, 27, is hoping to at least repeat his excellent run of 12-monhs ago when he reached the last which he then followed a couple of weeks later, by reaching round two at The Championships.
“I loved playing here last year so to come back feels pretty comfortable on the court,” Peniston said following his victory over the 24-year-old Humbert, winner of the Halle event two years ago.
“It gave me a lot of confidence I can play at that level and gave me the hunger to do it more.”
Norrie followed and found himself embroiled in tougher encounter but after 96-minutes, he also managed to dispatch his opponent in straight sets.
The big hitting 23-year-old from Serbia, Miomir Kecmanovic, was broken in the 10th game of the first set as Norrie slowly took control, gaining a service advantage early in the second only to be broken back immediately by the world No.40.
Norrie had a chance to seal the match in the 12th game but had to be patient, ultimately taking his fifth match point when Kecmanovic hit a stretching forehand long in the tie-break.
“It feels good to be back on the grass and back playing in London,” said Norrie after winning his first match on grass since his run to the Wimbledon semi-finalist last year.
“It wasn’t easy to get over the line, I had a couple of chances towards the end of the second set, I donated my serve at 3-1 and then he saved a number of match points.
“I was glad to see the forehand fly long at the end. It is always tricky in the first match on grass and there are a few things to work on, but I enjoyed that.”
Dan Evans and Jan Choinski however, were unable to join their countrymen’s celebrations as both were eliminated in their opening rounds.
Evans lost to Sebastian Korda of the US 6-4 7-5 whilst Choinski, a solid 27-year-old of Polish extraction, was outplayed by the 6th seeded Lorenzo Musetti 6-4 6-2.
For the British No.2 Evans, the defeat – which he described as ‘difficult loss’ – is a major blow to his Wimbledon preparations as his run of poor results this season, continues.
Evans, world-ranked 25, struggled to make an impression on 32nd-ranked Korda’s serve playing only his fifth match since January’s Australian Open because of a wrist injury.
“I’m not looking forward to playing any tennis at the minute. It’s tough,” a forlorn Evans admitted.
“When you feel no confidence, it’s not a good spot to be in.
“I’d love to say I’m looking forward to playing my next match but I’m not. That’s the honest truth for you.”
In other matches, two players from Argentina, Diego Schwartzman and Francisco Cerundolo successfully opened their grass court campaigns, the former beating Mackenzie McDonald, an American qualifier, 6-2 6-4 and the latter battling past another qualifier from the US, Tommy Paul 7-6(2) 4-6 6-4.
One American who did clear his first-round opponent was Ben Shelton who required a minute over two hours to eventually go through 7-6(4) 7-6(2) against his compatriot appearing on a Lucky Loser ticket, JJ Wolf.