Annie KO a blow for giddy Brits

LONDON (Reuters) - To the uninitiated the scoreboard gave little away, but once the first fuzzy yellow ball was struck there could be no doubt that it was Anne Keothavong who was Britain's darling on day four of the Wimbledon championships.

Despite her Laotian surname, Hackney-born Keothavong is as British as they come, and a giddily jingoistic crowd festooned with union jack paraphernalia threw themselves behind her.

Treated already this year to Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee celebrations and with the London Olympics less than a month away, a swell of patriotism is gripping Britain.

But on a verdant patch of Wimbledon turf, the feel good factor was put on ice temporarily as Britain's number one was put firmly in her place by a fizzing, bouncing bundle of Italian energy in Sara Errani.

"It was a nice court to play on and I had lots of support," Keothavong said wistfully following the 6-1 6-1 second-round defeat. "I'm just disappointed I couldn't have done a little better."

Realists, of course, would have known French Open finalist Errani would almost certainly have proved too strong for Britain's world number 77, but for the most part realism has been suspended as a patriotic aura grips the British Isles in 2012.

Errani, though, had no problem playing the party pooper. She pumped the ball deep into British territory time and time again, only relenting to throw in the deftest of touches and bamboozle once again an increasingly frustrated Keothavong.

Set one disappeared in a flash and at the 50-minute mark, the calls of "Come on Annie" could hardly have been more forlorn.

Whether it was the bright sun in her face, or mounting frustration threatening the 28-year-old's resolve, Keothavong displayed a permanent grimace.

Then it was over. A duffed dropshot into the net handed Errani victory after 59 minutes. Keothavong collected her bag, and walked slowly, head bowed, into the bowels of the All England Club.

"I know I can play better. I didn't challenge her today as much as I would have liked," she said. "To lose in that fashion, it's not particularly pleasing.

"I just forced it a bit too much. I managed to kind of just hit myself off the court, I guess."

But even for Keothavong, in her moment of sad reflection, the Olympics provided a glimmer of redemption.

"Yeah, that's the one thing that puts a smile on my face," she grinned. "Every time I think of the Olympics, I'm just over the moon about the selection.

"I have never been part of an Olympic team before. It's something new. It's something special. And the fact that it's in London, yeah, I'm super‑pumped about it."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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