Two big seeds tumbled out of Wimbledon on Wednesday, Anett Kontaveit and Garbiñe Muguruza, but British No 2 Harriet Dart showed her grass court prowess in defeating Spain’s Rebeka Masarova in straight sets, while Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko was an easy winner over American Yanina Wickmayer.
I love to play on grass. It fits my game. I love to play slice, drop-shots, going to the net. If I'm serving well, it's tough to break. I was serving well today, so I think it was pretty tough for her to return it, because sometimes I think you cannot see where I'm serving, which is good, which is positive. Jule Niemeier
Dart, who is ranked 94, effectively trounced Masarova, 6-1 6-4, to seal Britain’s best 1st-round success at Wimbledon since 1984.
In a match held over from Tuesday, the difference in comfort level on the grass between the two was evident as Dart drove with flat penetrating groundstrokes that kept the ball low, forcing the 6 foot 1 inch Spaniard to scoop it up so the Brit could step in and put it away.
The 25-year opened up 4-0 leads in each set and, despite a wobble in the second, closed out the match to set up a daunting but intriguing second-round meeting with American No 8 seed Jessica Pegula.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Jule Niemeier delivered a swift blow to Kontaveit, the 2nd seed, who took less than an hour to progress through to the 3rd-round in only her second Grand Slam main draw.
“I’m speechless to be honest,” said the delighted German, after celebrating her defining victory with a giant fist-pump. “It’s one of the biggest wins of my career so far.
“Winning the match here at Wimbledon on Court No1. [It] is such an amazing feeling.”
Ranked 97, the 22-year old showed no nerves on her first visit to such a big arena at Wimbledon.
Kontaveit was short of match play, after sitting out all grass court tournaments leading into Wimbledon as she continues her recovery from the effects of COVID-19, and the rust was evident in the Estonian’s 24 unforced errors, with several of her 4 double-faults coming at the most inopportune moments.
Niemeier set up her first break point with a stunning forehand winner, and coolly converted it into a 3-2 advantage.
With Kontaveit unable to gain any edge in the German’s big serving, Niemeier claimed 7 straight games to close out the match.
“It was one of the best matches I played,” said Niemeier, who finished the 58-minute encounter with 13 winners and an equal number of errors, but didn’t face a single break point.
“I was pretty nervous before the match I have to say,” she admitted. “Because I didn’t know the court, I couldn’t warm up on the court. I’m happy with how I could handle the situation today.”
After victory over China’s Xiyu Wang on Monday, Niemeier capitalised superbly against her big-name opponent, and is warming up for even greater success on the hallowed Wimbledon turf.
“I love to play on grass. It fits my game,” said the German. “I love to play slice, drop-shots, going to the net.
“If I’m serving well, it’s tough to break,” she added. “I was serving well today, so I think it was pretty tough for her to return it, because sometimes I think you cannot see where I’m serving, which is good, which is positive.”
Her bold and aggressive play paid off over her vastly more experienced opponent, and it sets up a 3rd-round showing with World No 101 Lesia Tsurenko, who won the contest between two Ukrainians against Anhelina Kalinina, 3-6 6-4 6-3.
This was a reminder to put tennis results in perspective, after Kalinina, the 29th seed, revealed that her parents’ apartment had been destroyed in the ongoing war, while Tsurenko said that one of the targets of the Russian invasion was 100m from her home.
“When the war started, I start to feel this tension inside of me,” said Tsurenko. “I think even if I work every day with psychologist and I try to avoid these emotions, it’s impossible. I think this feeling, this tension will only be released when the war will finish. There is nothing I can do about it.”
No.101-ranked Tsurenko, who reached the Eastbourne quarter-finals last week, came from a break down in the 3rd set to return to the Wimbledon 3rd round for the first time since 2017, and her second time overall.
Afterwards, Tsurenko revealed that her fitness coach and his father had been injured in yesterday’s attack on the Kremenchuk shopping centre.
“It’s just horrible what is going on in Ukraine,” she said. “I just feel terrible, and I feel very guilty, and I feel like there is nothing I can do.
“So the only thing is continue playing, and as I said, I donate 10% of my prize money.
“If there is something that every person in this world can do, I think it’s good if they do it,” she added. “If they think that to donate $10 means nothing, no, it’s not true. It means a lot.
“In the city, in the main city of my region, Mykolaiv, they don’t have water for few months already. So if you think that $10 is nothing, it is 10 bottles of water for these people.
“I have been at the Polish border with Ukraine, and I saw hundreds, thousands of people. They just don’t know where they go. They have all their life in two bags. They have kids, grandfather, grandmother maybe with them, and also some disabled people. And they are lost. So any support that you give to Ukrainians is amazing.”
Elsewhere, Muguruza’s dismal season continues with Spain’s No 9 seed going down to Belgian Greet Minnen, who shocked the former Wimbledon champion, 6-4 6-0, over two days on No 2 Court, the notorious graveyard court.
It was the best win of Minnen’s career by way of ranking in the Wimbledon first round, topping the former World No 1 after just over an hour in total.
Minnen notched the first set on Tuesday night, when darkness suspended the match until Wednesday when the 2017 Wimbledon champion was unable to turn things around despite the overnight pause, and Minnen needed only 18 minutes to sweep through the second set, finishing the match with 15 winners to 14 unforced errors, while the Spaniard’s 9 winners were negated by 33 unforced errors.
The Belgian now moves into a second-round clash with rising Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen, who took out American Sloane Stephens on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, another American, No 8 seed Jessica Pegula, booked safe passage into round 3 with a 6-3 7-6(2) win over former Top 20 player Donna Vekic of Croatia.
It took an hour and a half on Wednesday for Pegula to stop Vekic and win her first-round match that was originally scheduled for late Tuesday, but never got started.
Vekic has been a tough customer on grass in her career, with one Hologic WTA Tour title, two additional WTA finals, and a Round of 16 showing at 2019 Wimbledon on this surface.
Pegula, though, who made the quarter-finals at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year, triumphed to reach the Wimbledon 2nd-round for the second straight season.
Vekic twice came back from a break down in the second set before Pegula raced through the tiebreak.
Polishing off another unfinished match, last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova needed just 10 minutes on Wednesday to defeat fellow Czech Tereza Martincova, 7-6(1) 7-5, over two days to set up her next match against Katie Boulter, the British No 3.
Pliskova and Boulter have split their two previous meetings, with the Brit’s win coming just last week on the lawns of Eastbourne.
6th-seeded Pliskova and Martincova, ranked 61, went toe-to-toe on Tuesday night with Pliskova squeaking out the first set from an early break down.
Nothing separated the pair through 5-5 in the second set, when the match was postponed for lateness.
Returning to No 1 Court on Wednesday, Pliskova broke Martincova right away before serving out the win.
All told, Pliskova and Martincova had the same number of unforced errors, but Pliskova fired 29 winners, well outpacing Martincova’s 12.