POSTER girl Naomi Broady and her American doubles partner Maria Sanchez were eliminated in the first round at the Aegon Manchester Trophy on Tuesday after a 6-2 6-7 8-10 defeat to British pair Harriet Dart and Katy Dunne.
The number one ranked pair were firm favourites among spectators before the match commenced with both Dunne and Dart enduring gruelling singles matches earlier in the day.
Despite steamrolling the first set with some unplayable overhead smash winners, the favourites wilted thereafter and the youthful Dart and Dunne sensed the growing opportunity of victory.
As the unforced error count grew rapidly for Broady and Sanchez, Dart and Dunne held their nerve in the 10-set tiebreak to take the third set 10-8, earning an unexpected place in the next round.
The British pair will now face Taipei’s Kai-Chen Chang and her New Zealand partner Marina Erakovic after they, similarly to Dunne and Dart, fought back from losing the first set to beat Russian pair Anna Blinkova and Alla Kudryavtseva 4-6 7-6 10-7.
Walking to centre court ahead of Broady’s first appearance at this year’s event, there was an air of expectation that the poster girl would deliver a stellar performance.
Dunne and Dart had endured indifferent matches in the morning’s singles matches with 22-year-old Dunne progressing as Dart narrowly lost her tie with Magdalena Frech.
And it the first service game for the youngsters suggested Broady and Sanchez would follow the script as their aggressive approach saw them break first.
The frantic opening exchanges showed no signs of relenting as the favourites rushed into a 4-1 lead; at this stage the difference in quality was striking.
Taking just 23 minutes, many assumed the second set would be nothing more than a formality but with the margins so fine in tennis, the drama was only just about to begin.
What was particularly impressive was the recovery of Dunne and Dart, both of whom showed no real signs of fatigue.
Broken once more to go 4-3 down in the second they were forced to dig deep and the steely-eyed determination in the eyes of both players pushed them to break back instantly – at that moment the pendulum appeared to swing to the youngsters.
Dart began to pull the strings from the baseline, using the speed of the grass to push back Sanchez in particular and the pressure overflowed from the American towards the chair umpire.
Sanchez demanded: “Who’s making the calls, you or her? and moments later Dunne and Dart broke.
Unforced error after unforced error aided the underdogs to take the tie the distance and as the pressure dial was turned, it was the top seeds who showed the nerves.
Broady’s family were in attendance and tried to lift the Stockport-born player but the receiving game of Dart and Dunne was resilient beyond their ranking as the big servers managed just one ace in the final set.
Points came and went and eventually the shock was complete as the work-rate of Dunne and Dart was repaid with victory and they joined fellow British pair Katie Swan and Katie Boulter in the quarter-finals after they comfortably dispatched Argentine Maria Irigoyen and Poland’s Paula Kania 6-1 6-2 in under an hour.
Dart and Dunne speaking to Quays News after the thrilling centre court encounter:
KD: “I think we worked really well as a team and kept trying to keep the pressure on the scoreboard in the second set. We tried to hold our serve and we came up with some really good tennis so I think we deserved it in the end.”
HD: “Obviously disappointing to lose the singles but it is a new match and you’ve got to go out there and give it your all and I think we played some really good doubles and we showed we could turn it around.”
KD: “They played a really good first set and Naomi [Broady] especially wasn’t giving us much so if she can keep that up for two sets she’ll be too good [in the singles].”
HD: “We’ve just got to take each game as it comes now. We’ve got some tough opponents in the next round so we’ll just play match by match and see how far we can go.”