By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Tennis fan the Duchess of Cambridge swept into the All England Club on Tuesday and, as if by royal command, British players responded with a memorable day of home victories.
Wildcard Harriet Dart was the first to get a visit with Kate, wife of Prince William, taking her seat on Court 14 to cheer her on against American Christina McHale.
Dart, ranked 182 in the world, is unlikely to have had so many photographers courtside for one of her matches before, even if they were all trained on the royal visitor.
After losing the first set to a far more experienced opponent she turned things around to claim a first-ever Wimbledon main victory, 4-6 6-4 6-4.
Victories later for British number one Johanna Konta, Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie and Jay Clarke meant seven British players had reached the second round for the first time since 2006.
Nineteenth seed Konta, who reached the French Open semi-finals last month, met the Duchess after her morning hit and was suitably energized to go out and beat Romania’s Ana Bogdan 7-5 6-2.
Evans, once banned for taking cocaine, continued his resurgence with a classy 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 win over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis while Norrie was equally impressive as he dispatched Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin 6-2 6-4 6-4.
Wildcard Clarke, 20, then booked a dream clash with eight-time champion Roger Federer after coming from a set down to get past Noah Rubin 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-4.
Kyle Edmund and Heather Watson won on Monday.
The Duchess, a patron of the club, usually takes her place in the Royal Box, so it caused a stir when she sat one from the turf to watch Dart on a packed Court 14.
Dressed in an elegant, white, belted dress she sat next to Britain’s Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong.
“I was aware,” the 22-year-old Dart told reporters when asked whether she had been taken by surprise by her royal supporter. “The chair umpire mentioned it before the coin toss.
“It’s pretty cool to have royalty watching you. Such a privilege for me for her to get to see me play.
“I mean, it’s pretty surreal. Any of you had the Duchess watch you guys play?”
She said it was purely coincidental that her comeback began after the Duchess had left her seat.
“Because I’m British, hopefully she’ll come to many more of my matches,” she said.
Konta said it had not made any difference to her performance although she admitted it was “exciting” to have the support of the Royal Family at her home Grand Slam
“I think it adds just to the air of the place, makes it that much more special,” she said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Alison Williams and Clare Fallon)