x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Great expectations - and inescapable burdens

While the burden of expectation will be shouldered by Andy Murray as British hopes reach fever pitch, there will be no hiding place for Juan Martin Del Potro.

Andy Murray starts his Wimbledon challenge today.
Andy Murray starts his Wimbledon challenge today.

LONDON // While the burden of expectation will be shouldered by Andy Murray this afternoon as British hopes of a home-grown champion reach fever pitch, there will be no hiding place either for Juan Martin Del Potro. The gigantic Argentine has been promoted to the top of the men's singles draw in the absence of world No 1 Rafael Nadal and has hardly any Wimbledon pedigree to back up that level of responsibility. Two previous visits have brought second round exits and he will be vulnerable to the same fate this year if he gets past the experienced Frenchman Arnaud Clement because a renowned grass court exponent in former champion Lleyton Hewitt is likely to be waiting, assuming he beats American Robby Ginepri.

Andy Roddick, an American with far greater prospects here - he was beaten in two successive finals by Roger Federer - also begins his challenge against France's Jeremy Chardy, but it is the Scottish Andy who will enjoy top billing. Murray, who boosted his high hopes by winning the warm-up tournament at Queen's, will be glad when all the build-up is complete and he can get down to business against Robert Kendrick, who is the first of what home fans hope will be a series of public enemy No 1s.

The British No 1 has interrupted his practice sessions with a game of golf and some go-karting as he waits for his fourth Wimbledon to get under way, and although he declared that it was "a shame" Rafael Nadal is not defending the title, the Spaniard's absence presents the Scot with a glorious opportunity. The men's champion may be missing but the women's title holder looks in fine fettle. Venus Williams has her eyes on a hat-trick of victories, and a sixth in all, and will be seeking to expend minimal energy in clearing the first obstacle in the shape of Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele.

wjohnson@thenational.ae