Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls go down fighting as Wimbledon women’s doubles campaign ends after epic three-hour battle
Team Bath Tennis ace Alicia Barnett and partner Olivia Nicholls produced a tremendous performance in the second round at Wimbledon before their women’s doubles campaign came to a battling end in an epic encounter.
The duo, in their first-ever Grand Slam competition, won the first set against Nadiia Kichenok (Ukraine) and Raluca Olaru (Romania) but it was the Number 15 seeds who eventually progressed 3-6 6-4 7-6(10-5) after more than three hours on Court 8.
“That match was really tough,” said Barnett. “Liv and I are starting to get used to playing at this level and it’s our first Grand Slam so we went in just trying to focus on us and going after our plays, and having good intent.
“It was probably one of the best matches we’d played. Obviously it’s heart-breaking losing a tie-break, but we’re at Wimbledon. We could have lost in the first round and it’s just great that we were out there and on court for three hours with all our friends and family. We’re just going to go away and learn a lot from it.”
The tone was set during an eventful first set that lasted 54 minutes and saw Barnett – coached by Ian MacDonald at the Team Bath Sports Training Village – and Nicholls win the opening game, then force five break points on Olaru’s serve but not be able to take them and instead find themselves a break down in the following game.
The Brits quickly hit back and were leading 4-3 when there was a five-minute pause in play as Kichenok left the court for a break. Barnett and Nicholls didn’t let that interrupt their rhythm, though, and they went on to gain another break before serving out the set.
— LTA (@the_LTA) July 1, 2022
The drama continued in the second set as Barnett and Nicholls were broken in their first service game but immediately hit back and had three chances to break for a second time. Unfortunately they couldn’t take them and were broken in the next game.
Finding themselves 5-2 down, the battling Brits saved two set points on Nicholls’ serve before, with Kichenok serving for the set, they broke back thanks to a brilliant Barnett volley at the net. That gave them a chance to get back on level terms but an untimely double-fault on set point meant it was Kichenok and Olaru who took it 6-4.
An enthralling match got the epic decider it deserved as the third set, which lasted 87 minutes, saw Barnett and Nicholls again hit back from an early break to lead 4-3 and serve for a 5-3 advantage, only for their opponents to respond again.
The set went to a tie-break where Kichenok and Olaru’s competition experience eventually saw them come through 10-5 but Barnett and Nicholls could be mighty proud of their performances on their Wimbledon debuts – including their fantastic first-round victory over Kaia Kanepi and Renata Voracova on Wednesday.
Barnett’s SW19 adventure is not over, though, as she is also contesting the mixed doubles with Jonny O’Mara.