WITH just weeks to go before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the partnership that won a gold medal four years ago in Delhi is about to be reunited at Wimbledon. Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae played here in 2011, the year after their surprise mixed-doubles victory in India, but principally because of injuries to Rae have been unable to play together since.
The two Scots are one of four British pairs to have received wild cards for the mixed, and will be up against Scott Lipsky of the USA and Jie Zheng of China in the first round. It is a tough draw for Fleming and Rae, who are keen to bounce back from losing in the men’s and women’s doubles yesterday.
Fleming and Ross Hutchins, who is back playing after treatment for Hodkin’s lymphoma, went down in four sets to the No 16 seeds, Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and David Marrero of Spain. The Britons got back on track in the second set after losing the first, but in the end were unable to take the contest into a decider, losing the tiebreak in the fourth to go down 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.
At almost exactly the same time, Rae and Anna Smith, who are now Britain’s top female pairing, lost in three sets to Flavia Pennetta and Sam Stosur. The vastly experienced Italian-Australian team won 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
From a morale point of view it was far from ideal preparation for the Scots – or indeed for Hutchins and Smith, who will join them in the mixed, partnered by Heather Watson and James Ward. But both Fleming and Rae are looking forward to renewing the partnership only formed a day before competition began in Delhi, and that took the field by storm.
“I’m excited to play with Joss,” Fleming said. “She sent me a message about playing the mixed here – I knew straightaway it would be good to play.”
Rae, too, is looking forward to getting back together with the man from Linlithgow, and only wishes they were able to defend their Commonwealth title – tennis is not one of the 17 sports on the programme for Glasgow. “Playing with Colin at the mixed will be fun – it always is playing with Colin,” the 23-year-old said.
Apart from the actual result, the main memory of the final in Delhi for anyone who was there was the swarm of bugs that descended on the stadium. Extra-large locusts were only the most visible pests, as Rae recalled. “It was hard and it was hot. On telly you could see the big bugs flying around – what you couldn’t see were the tiny ones.”
“The Commonwealth Games was a massive surprise. I met Colin the day before our first match. We nearly lost in the first round, then we just kind of went on from there.”
Fleming took a lot of confidence, too, from the commanding way in which Rae played in that competition, particularly in the final, when she was the outstanding player on court. If both rediscover that self-belief here, they may just have a chance of pulling off another upset or two.