Jan 13 (Reuters) - Just when British sports fans thought the jibes, digs and abuse over their lack of success Down Under over the last few months might finally slow to a mumbled trickle, their athletes gave their colonial brothers further ammunition on Monday.
Already smarting from a 5-0 thrashing in the Ashes cricket series, British hopes in the women’s singles draw at the Australian Open ended before they got going with Laura Robson and Heather Watson knocked out in the first round.
On top of that, the pair’s losses to 18th seed Kirsten Flipkens and 31st seed Daniela Hantuchova respectively, came less than 24 hours after the England cricket team were humbled at the neighbouring Melbourne Cricket Ground in the opening one-day international against Australia.
Robson, who had been forced to withdraw from the warmup Hobart International tournament with a wrist injury last week refused to blame that for her loss on Monday.
”She just played better than me,“ Robson told reporters of her 6-3 6-0 loss to Flipkens. ”I don’t think I ever really got into a rhythm at all.
”I wasn’t really able to deal with her slice that well.
“I definitely expected to play better, but, you know, it happens.”
Robson and Watson were the only two British women to make the main singles draw at Melbourne Park. None are involved in the doubles or mixed doubles.
Their first round losses seemed a far cry from six months ago when British sports fans were celebrating a British and Irish Lions test series victory in Australia, an Ashes win, their second successive Tour de France winner and Andy Murray breaking a 77-year hoodoo to win the Wimbledon men’s title.
The nation’s remaining hopes in singles of the year’s opening grand slam now rest with world number four Murray.
Last year’s beaten finalist, however, is still recovering from back surgery and has already moved to dampen down expectations of his progress at the tournament.
Murray, who meets Japan’s Go Soeda in the first round on Tuesday, has played two competitive matches since his surgery, thumping a local in the first round in Doha before he lost to Florian Mayer in the second.
“I still obviously want and try and keep winning as much as possible. That’s always been the goal,” Murray said before the tournament began.
”If somehow I can work my way into the tournament, feel a little bit better every day, then I might start to raise those expectations.
“But for now they’re not going to be obviously as high as they were the last few years.”
While British public and media attention will no doubt focus on Murray’s progress, the English cricket team still have four one-day matches and three Twenty20 games before they can return home from their lengthy tour of the Sunburnt Country.
The Australian cricketers, however, will not be doing them any favours with all-rounder Glenn Maxwell keen on prolonging their misery by trying to sweep the limited overs matches.
”They looked a little bit drained, looked a bit tired,“ Maxwell told reporters on Monday. ”I think they’re still carrying a little bit of the effects from the Ashes.
“Hopefully we can keep our foot on the throat and keep them to 10-0 and hopefully take them in the T20s as well.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)