British 20-year-old Melanie South achieved her ambition of playing the Ladies’ Singles at Wimbledon – and then some – when she disposed of No.11 seed Francesca Schiavone 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The young woman from Surrey, who was awarded a wild card into the main draw, has always dreamed of playing the grass court Grand Slam so when she defeated the London-based Italian – ranked 14 in the world – to book a place into the second round, she must have thought all her Christmases had come at once.
South, ranked 305 in the world, was making her first ladies’ singles appearance. Her experienced 26-year-old opponent, by comparison, has played in The Championships for the past five years, recording her best result in 2003 when she reached the third round.
So spectators could be forgiven for assuming the contest might be somewhat one-sided. It wasn’t. Despite losing the first set, South remained calm and composed, and kept plugging away.
Her tenacity paid off. She served noticeably better than her opponent, making 61 per cent of first serves, compared to Schiavone’s 51 per cent. South fired down four aces and proved the more consistent, hitting only 16 unforced errors compared to the Italian’s 25.
After the match South admitted she was nervous, but at the same time had nothing to lose.
“This is probably the most significant event that I’ve had these nerves. I think I dealt with them well,” she said. “No-one’s ever expecting me to win. I just went out there and enjoyed it… to go out there and beat someone so high. It’s really a good feeling.”
In fact, South has given herself two years to get into the top 100. For now, however, the Brit is working on dealing with her nerves by reading the Da Vinci Code. “It’s kind of easy to get into,” she said. “You can kind of switch off.”