- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2011

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND (AP) - One message read: “Believe in yourself and never give up.” Another simply said: “Make history.”

The words of support from Facebook fans printed on Andy Murray’s racket bag looked as if they might be having the opposite effect Monday when he dropped his first set at Wimbledon.

Then, as if flicking on a switch, Murray reeled off 15 consecutive games for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 victory over Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the second round.

Gimeno-Traver began the match confidently under the roof at Centre Court and hit some particularly good forehands, but by the end, the 56th-ranked Spaniard looked every bit the player who has lost in the first round at eight of his 12 Grand Slam tournaments.

And Murray’s unusual bag _ the brainchild of his racket sponsor _ didn’t end up being consigned to history. Murray said it might even turn out to be a source of inspiration in the future.

“I didn’t today, but a lot of players in the past have done it with having notes in their bag, and some have had things written on like their rackets or something, on the back of their hand,” he said. “Players have done those sort of things a lot in the past. And, yeah, something I could do if I felt like I needed it.”

Murray is once again carrying the hopes of the home nation, desperate for the first British male champion at Wimbledon since 1936.

The 24-year-old from Scotland has reached the semifinals the past two years, and after a poor run of form following a loss to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final, he has raised hopes again by making the French Open semifinals and winning the grass-court title at Queen’s Club last week.

A rare day off in the lead-up to Wimbledon was interrupted by a 7 a.m. call from drug testers on Thursday. It was the third time he had been called upon for a sample in less than a month since losing at Roland Garros.

“It’s a lot of testing, but just part of our job, unfortunately,” Murray said. “It’s just very intrusive when you get someone sort of in your house in the morning. When you’re going to the toilet and they’re staring at you, it’s a bit … you know, in your own home, it’s just quite strange feeling.”

The only negative for Murray about his match Monday was that not all of his fans inside the All England Club got to see him play. With heavy rain falling, organizers switched off the big outdoor TV screen for “health and safety reasons.”

The tournament said it was to prevent spectators from slipping on the grass.


TURNAROUND: After blowing a big lead and losing at the French Open, 19-year-old Christina McHale of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., made sure she didn’t make the same mistake at Wimbledon.

McHale reached the second round at the All England Club for the first time _ and at any Grand Slam tournament for only the second time _ by eliminating 28th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 2-6, 6-1, 8-6 Monday.

Last month in Paris, McHale led Sara Errani of Italy 5-0 in the third set before losing 6-7 (4), 6-2, 9-7.

Against Makarova, McHale served for the match at 7-6 and fell behind love-40. But she came back to pull out the victory and improve to 2-6 at major tournaments.

“It definitely feels much better to be on this side of the match than last time in Paris,” McHale said. “I was just trying to focus on each point, which is something I think I learned from the match in Paris.”

After briefly getting down on herself after what happened at Roland Garros, McHale decided she needed to move on.

“I gave myself two days to feel bad about that match,” McHale said. “It made me want to work harder, because I didn’t want to have that happen again. I wanted the match today that much more.”


SWEETING-NADAL III: Ryan Sweeting is hoping familiarity breeds success.

Before this season, the 23-year-old American had never played a match against No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal.

Now the 69th-ranked Sweeting is getting set to face Nadal for the third time in six months. They’ll meet in the second round at Wimbledon after winning first-round matches Monday.

“They keep putting me up in the top half of the draw,” said Sweeting, who earned another shot at Nadal via a 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1 victory over Pablo Andujar of Spain.

“I don’t know what the deal is. What can I say? He’s obviously one of the toughest opponents to play on any surface.”

Sweeting knows that all too well. When they played at the Australian Open in January, Nadal won 6-2, 6-1, 6-1. At Indian Wells, Calif., in March, Nadal won 6-3, 6-1.

“Basically, I’m going to need to play great,” Sweeting said. “I’m going to need to walk into the match feeling confident and execute. If I don’t execute, I’m going to be in trouble, because he’s not going to give me anything.”

Sweeting never had played in a Grand Slam tournament’s main draw until 2011. He’s 2-2 so far.

The victory over the 50th-ranked Andujar marked the first time Sweeting’s come back from two sets down to win a match.

“For me, personally, it’s a huge accomplishment to be able to get a win after being two sets down,” Sweeting said. “In the past I, mentally, I wouldn’t say ‘thrown in the towel,’ but, maybe, mentally thought in my head the match is over. But today I fought hard and stopped fighting with myself, and just started to play tennis.”


TEXTING RORY: Rafael Nadal tried texting Rory McIlroy after the Northern Irishman won golf’s U.S. Open. Nadal’s didn’t hear back right away. Now the tennis star could get a chance to congratulate his pal in person.

McIlroy is expected to visit Wimbledon next week.

The two athletes met last year in New York, and two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal said he instantly became a fan of McIlroy’s.

Nadal watched McIlroy’s eight-stroke victory in Bethesda, Md., over the past few days.

“When you have to defend the advantage, you start to play a little bit more defensive. Sometimes can be dangerous. And he did perfect. He managed the moments perfect, in my opinion,” Nadal said.


AP freelance writer Sandra Harwitt contributed to this report.

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