JAY CLARKE DENIES DIEGO SCHWARTZMANN FAIRYTALE FAREWELL WITH IMPRESSIVE WIMBLEDON QUALIFYING WIN

Jay Clarke secured perhaps the biggest win of his career by toppling former top-10 player Diego Schwartzman in an eye-catching start to Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton.

The 25-year-old beat the former French Open semi-finalist in straight sets, putting in a confident performance to come out a 6-4, 6-3 winner and denying his opponent a fairytale farewell at Wimbledon before he retires in early 2025.

British No 15 Clarke, who is ranked at 322 in the world, hit an impressive 15 aces en route to his first win on the grass this summer, setting up a second-round clash against world No 223 Quentin Halys.

Derby’s Clarke was out of action for six months at the end of last year with a wrist injury and, after getting married in that time, has a new approach as he bids to return to SW19 – five years after reaching the second round and facing Roger Federer on Centre Court – for the main event next week.

He said: “It was a really tough draw, Diego is one of the legends of the sport. The fact I could play him is already a pleasure and to win is amazing.

“I think I’m still three or four years away from my peak, I didn’t play for the last six months of the year due to the surgery on my left wrist. My whole perspective has changed because I didn’t know if I would be able to come back to play.

“When I had the time off, I dropped to 800. Now I’m able to play freely and not think about my wrist so I’m really happy to be here.”

Clarke was flying the flag for Great Britain on a day that saw most home hopefuls fall at the first hurdle but George Loffhagen broke that trend.

Loffhagen revelled in a stunning first-round win to advance his dreams of reaching the main draw for a second time as he forced his way past top 250 player Stefano Travaglia in a three-set-thriller, winning 6-4 4-6 7-5, breaking the Italian’s serve at the final opportunity in the decider.

Loffhagen claimed his first Challenger title last year at the LTA’s Rothesay Open Nottingham and, following a lengthy absence through injury, continued his progress on the grass this summer.

The biggest name to bow out was Ryan Peniston. The 28-year-old made headlines last year when he was handed a wildcard and British tennis legend Andy Murray in the first round.

He was handily beaten in straight sets but won’t make the main draw this year after losing to France’s Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(10) 6-2 in almost an hour and a half.

He said: “I gave everything I had in the match, especially in the first set. I definitely had chances but he played well in the set points. I was proud of my effort and I just didn’t have enough left in the tank.”

Felix Gill lost to top 150 player Emilio Nava 6-4 6-1, while Jersey’s Stuart Parker lost to Patrick Kypson in straight sets.

The 26-year-old lost the first set 6-3 but fought well in the second to set up a tie-break with USA’s Kypson, ultimately losing 6-3 7-6(3).

Oliver Crawford savoured his professional grass-court debut despite bowing out of the first round. The 25-year-old was born in South Carolina but switched to the British flag at the start of the year via his Birmingham family.

Crawford lost in straight sets to veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-2 7-6(8) and put up a strong fight by taking the second to a tie-break. He will now focus on a Wimbledon doubles tilt with Kyle Edmund after the pair received a wildcard last week.

Meanwhile, Anton Matusevich went out to Chilean Tomas Barrios Vera 3-6 6-4 6-3.

Wimbledon Qualifying top seed Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard bounced back from Queen’s defeat to Isle of Man’s Billy Harris to book his place in the second round.

The Frenchman defeated compatriot Ugo Blanchet 6-2 7-5 on the opening day and the world No 59 will face Antoine Escoffier in the second round.

Fresh from wins at Surbiton and Ilkley, South African Lloyd Harris powered past Italy’s Andrea Vavassori 6-2 6-2 and world No. 70 Hugo Gaston, in as the second seed, will face Dino Prizmic after getting past Japan’s Shintaro Mochizuki in straight sets.

For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website

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2024-06-24T20:11:54Z dg43tfdfdgfd