there’s nothing a Wimbledon crowd appreciates more than a really stubborn defeat. You suspect that Liam Broady has won his place in SW19’s heart with his performance against Alex de Minaur. The scorecard might say it took the Australian just three sets to beat him, but it felt like much more.
Broady’s determined spirit shone through to the end. He only won his first service break 5-4 in the last set, when De Minaur was looking for service for the win. And yet he nearly took the set to a tie-break in a never-ending final match that was so thrilling that the spectators not only stopped counting the twos, they practically stopped breathing.
After the game, Broady said he felt like Jimmy Connors – he didn’t lose the game, he just ran out of time. “I probably didn’t settle as quickly as I would have liked,” he said. “Probably I’ll get into the rhythm of it when I collapsed in third. Obviously against someone like Alex, he’s a world-class fielder, it’s a bit too late.”
Playing with the sincerity that has made him such a popular figure at last week’s championships, Broady forced De Minaur to give his very best, delivering over two hours of emphatic entertainment on No 1 Court. A match-up between the world No. 132 and the world No. 27 would always be a difficult prospect. De Minaur defeated Broady in their only previous grass-fighting encounter at Eastbourne last year, and looked like the likely winner here from the start.
With the same relentless speed that had blown away Broady’s compatriot Jack Draper in the previous round shot the Australian down two aces in his opening game. And while Broady had clearly come onto the court with a lot of confidence – as evidenced by a steaming forehand followed by a boastful drop shot – he was busted within 20 minutes. His dedication to rallies could drag him back to the odd point, but never back to the set.
Still, the 28-year-old gave it his all in defense and felt like he deserved every point he won twice. There were some successful moments when he managed to lure De Minaur into the net and when he hit two breakpoints in the third game of the second set, he called for three aces to hold his serve. But for every hard-fought win on his side of the net, a swift counter-offensive ensued and Minaur’s own service games flashed past like title cards.
Broady’s service became heroic sagas in its own right. His best chance to even the field probably came towards the end of the second set, when he was the beneficiary of an apparently unreachable power cord at 0-30. But De Minaur slid in like John Travolta to blast the ball back over the net before sending the follow-up volley over the head of his opponent.
Broady later revealed that he had requested a new racket which only arrived on court when he already had a breakdown in the third set. “I brought it out and I just felt a lot more comfortable playing it. I felt like the ball did what I was trying to tell it.”
Sure, he produced his best tennis in the third set, as he dug deeper, challenged smarter and hit a few breakpoints. If any moment captured his efforts in this match, it was the sight of him running at full speed to chase a deathstop drop shot only to be finally draped over the net, his long body folded in half like a piece of laundry.
But it’s that last game that lives on in the memory, as he forced De Minaur to endure seven deuces and four match points before finally tasting victory. This match was, Broady said, the most enjoyable experience he has had on a Wimbledon show court.
“It has probably been more of a negative experience [in the past] because I didn’t feel like I could express myself,” he said. “I mean, I remember playing [Milos] Raonic at No. 1 Court… I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I just felt terrible. While today I felt like I was playing well enough to try and get the audience involved.”
As for De Minaur, the Australian will have to show a lot of tact this week. He has now not only defeated two British players from the tournament, but also his girlfriend, Katie Boulter, underwent her own painful exit from the women’s singles earlier on Saturday. After his match, he assured the press that she had not passed on any tips to beat her compatriots – “She tries to remain as neutral as possible” – and his diplomacy and goodness have brought him remarkable support, as evidenced by the warm response to his victory. “Hopefully I can keep it up and get an even bigger audience in the coming games,” he said.
Broady, meanwhile, believes his best tennis is yet to come. “I will play as long as I can because I really believe that my best years will come later in my career. Hopefully they will come next year, and then they will last 10 years. In this sport we never know, right?”
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