Mhairi Brown wrote herself into the history books today when she stepped out onto the show court of the 5000 seat capacity R.K. Khanna complex in Delhi to become the first ever Scottish tennis player to compete at the full Commonwealth Games.
HRH The Earl of Wessex was in attendance to watch tennis make its Games debut and as Brown took to the court under the glare of the TV cameras to face Australian sixth seed Olivia Rogowska, the twenty eight year old from Edinburgh was cheered by the rest of the tennis squad as well as a contingent of the wrestling team who had come along to support their fellow Team Scotland athlete.
Speaking afterwards about the moment when she walked out onto the show court, Brown said: “It was exciting to be out on Centre Court and I’m glad I’ve experienced that. I played the Commonwealth Youth Games in Edinburgh 10 years ago but it’s totally different playing the full Commonwealth Games.
“It was a proud moment to be the first tennis player to walk out onto the court representing Scotland, especially on a show court and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
In Edinburgh in 2000, Brown was part of the girls team who beat Australia on the way to winning a silver medal at the inaugural Commonwealth Youth Games.
However, her full Commonwealth debut today was a less successful outing against Australian opposition as the doubles specialist experienced something of a baptism of fire, going out of the singles in a 6-2 6-1 defeat in scorching conditions on Centre Court.
Brown won the toss and elected to serve, but she struggled to cope with the heavy topspin of her opponent on the hard court and the Australian quickly took a 2-0 lead. Brown got on the score-board in the third game of the set courtesy of three powerful first serves, but Rogowska won the next three games to take a 5-1 lead before holding her serve at 5-2 to take the set.
The second set was a similar story as Rogowska, who described Brown as ‘having a tricky sliced backhand and being difficult to read’ stepped up a gear. Brown had no answer to the powerful shot making of Rogowska and the Australian went through in a 6-2 6-1 scoreline.
After the match, Brown, who came out of international retirement to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, said: “I didn’t play my best tennis but at least I made her play a lot of balls. To go out and compete against players who are playing full time tennis is tough, especially in singles.
“My opponent today was a good player. She played well, she’s a bit stronger than me and she hit the ball harder. She just played better than me today.
“But I have a style of game that will trouble a few people and I’m pretty strong mentally. I’m looking to make the experience I’ve just had work for me in the ladies’ and mixed doubles – I’m stronger in those events than in the singles.”
There was indeed better news for Brown and her mixed partner Jamie Murray in the evening session as they beat Ugandans Duncan Mugabe and Jalia Nanfuka to reach the quarter finals in the last match of the night under the floodlights on court three.
The Scots broke serve in the third game of the first set and from there they never looked back, taking the set 6-2 with only Mugabe holding serve for the Ugandans. Although the second set was closer Murray and Brown were never really troubled throughout and ran out 6-2 6-4 winners.
After the match Murray said: “It’s nice to win and get through to the next round. It wasn’t the most difficult match but it’s always good to get a win under your belt. I think we play the top seeds in the next round so that should be an interesting match.”
Brown continued: “It’s nice to get a win on the board and the atmosphere on the court was really good – we were the last match on so we had quite a lot of people watching us. We have the Aussies in the next round and I’m looking forward to that one.”
In the match immediately preceding Murray and Brown’s victory, their team mates Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae fought back from a set down to reach the quarters, beating Australia’s Matt Ebden and Sally Peers in a difficult first round tie against tricky opposition. The Scots twice had good chances to break serve early in the first set but somehow found themselves 4-1 down and struggling. From there the set went with serve and the Aussies took it 6-3.
In the first game of the second set the Scots found themselves 0-30 down on Fleming’s serve but crucially they came back to hold and from there began to take control. Despite putting Ebden under pressure in the next game the Scots weren’t able to break his serve, but they broke Peers’ in the fourth and eighth games of the set before Fleming served out to level the match at one set all.
In the final set the Aussies took the first game before Fleming held his serve in a tense game punctuated by numerous deuce points. Once again his hold proved to be crucial, signalling the start of a run of six games without reply for the Scots as they completed a 3-6 6-3 6-1 win.
Fleming said: “We had a bit of a slow start but we came back in the last two sets and I thought we were playing great tennis.”
Rae confirmed: “It took us a while to get into the match but we kept each other positive. We picked things up in the second and third sets and found our rhythm a bit more and now we’re just looking forward to our next match.
All of Team Scotland’s tennis squad will be in action tomorrow (Tuesday) in the men’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.