Wimbledon | Davis dumps defending champ Kerber; Kvitova wins
Wimbledon’s infamous graveyard court claimed the defending Ladies Champion on Thursday afternoon as Angelique Kerber suffered a shock 2-6 6-2 6-1 at the hands of lucky loser Lauren Davis.
I told myself you're strong, you can do it, you belong here, Lauren Davis
There was little sign of the upset to come on No 2 Court when the 5th seed won the first set 6-2 against the big-hitting American, who is ranked 95 places below her.
The 31-year-old managed to avoid becoming the first ladies’ champion to be defeated in the first round the following year since Steffi Graf in 1994 after beating compatriot Tatjana Maria on Tuesday but had few answers when it mattered on this outing.
Davis called a medical timeout at the end of the first set to have tape applied to her left knee and ankle, but it didn’t appear to hinder the power of her groundstrokes.
Looking like the walking wounded with her shoulder also taped, Davis celebrated the Fourth of July in some style.
There were 10 breaks of serve in the first 2 sets but the 25-year-old Davis, aiming to match her best performance at The Championships in 2014 by reaching the third round, ran way with the final set, clinching victory on her 3rd match point.
The American, formerly ranked in the Top 30, continues a rapid trajectory back up the rankings after having finished 2018 ranked No 252, her first year-end finish outside the Top 100 since 2011.
Davis effectively outhit Kerber on the day, with 45 winners to Kerber’s 13.
Kerber had won their only previous meeting, a first-round match at the 2011 US Open, where the German had her breakthrough major by making it to her first Grand Slam semi-final.
On this day, however, at Wimbledon, nearly 8 years later, Kerber was broken by Davis 7 times, and the 3-time Grand Slam champion’s 13 winners were negated by 31 unforced errors.
In the third round, Davis will play No 30 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier in two tiebreak sets earlier on Thursday.
The match opened with lengthy rallies, as the two players extended points with excellent foot speed, leading to 4 straight breaks of serve at the opening of the encounter.
Kerber struggled to finally hold serve, squandering a 40-0 lead at 2-2, but used her fierce left-handed forehand to garner a critical hold and start to take command of the opening frame.
The Germna lobbed Davis in the first point of the next game, as the American slipped in the forecourt, en route to another break of service and a sturdy 4-2 lead.
Swiftly moving to triple set point at 5-2, Kerber claimed another break of service, at love, to clinch the one-set lead.
After a visit from the trainer between sets, Davis turned the tables.
Three breaks of serve started the second stanza, but Davis forced herself in front by holding for 3-1 with a beautiful backhand crosscourt winner.
Kerber had 3 break points to get back level at 3-2, but Davis stayed aggressive and erased each of those chances, eventually gritting out a hold for 4-2.
The German faltered after being unable to get back to parity, and dropped serve in the very next game, which was punctuated by a double fault.
Davis ended up winning the last 7 points of the set, holding to love with an ace to level at one set apiece with the reigning titleholder.
She refused to let up in the decider, staying as the aggressor and reaping the rewards.
Kerber held serve to open the final set, but that would be her only mark on the scoreboard, as Davis typically wrapped up gruelling rallies with great groundstrokes to ease her way to a 4-1, double-break lead, and the defending champion’s frustrations only magnified.
At 5-1, Kerber found herself in trouble on serve again, and had to use her forehand to fend off 2 match points and pull to game point, but consecutive errors by the German brought Davis a 3rd match point, which was the charm as the American used a strong return to force a netted error and earn her first Top 10 win since 2017.
Coming from a set down, the unseeded American created a slice of history.
Davis had failed to get through qualifying and only made the main draw as a lucky loser after some of the wild-card spots weren’t used, but she pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the week by beating Kerber.
”It’s almost surreal,” said Davis, who started the year ranked outside the top 250.
Davis said the turning point came when she was up a break at 3-2 in the second set and managed to hold after saving 3 break points.
“I told myself you’re strong, you can do it, you belong here,” Davis said.
Davis has now equalled her best previous performance at Wimbledon in reaching the third round where she will play Spanish 30th seed Carla Suarez Navarro for a place in the last 16.
“This means everything as it is what I work for,” said Davis. “I was a bit nervous and I slid and hurt my foot in the first set.
“Yeah it’s been a tough journey and a process of learning and growing as a player and person,” she added.
“The drop in ranking has made this win even more fulfilling.”
Davis said of course doubts had set in but deep down she always had belief she could succeed.
“I believe in my ability,” she said.
Kerber’s belief comes in ebbs and flows these days as she heads for the exit door.
Earlier in the day, another Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova shrugged off a slow start to defeat Kristina Mladenovic, 7-5 6-2, and reach the third round of Wimbledon for the first time since 2015.
The two-time title holder last hoisted the Venus Rosewater Dish in 2014, and rounded into similar form towards the end of an hour and 25 minute victory over the former World No 10 on No 1 Court.
The big-hitting Czech was fresh off of a decisive win over Nature Valley International semifinalist Ons Jabeur in what was her first match since retiring from the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and withdrawing from Roland Garros with a left forearm injury.
“I can’t say it’s better, I can’t say it’s worst,” she explained on Thursday. “I mean, I’m feeling everything on my body. It’s not really surprising. We’ll see how that will look like tomorrow.
“I really had a tough match today, with fast serves flying to me, so we’ll see how it’s going to be tomorrow.”
She last played Mladenovic at the Mutua Madrid Open, where she won in 2 tight sets, but the Frenchwoman has been on the upswing since pairing with new coach Sascha Bajin, winning the Roland Garros women’s doubles title with Timea Babos and reaching the Nature Valley Open quarter-finals to kick off the grass court season.
The No 6 seed last played on this court in her first round back in 2018, when she lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in 3 shocking sets, and made a tough start on serve, throwing in 2 double faults as Mladenovic broke in the opening game.
“I didn’t want the same result as last year, being back on the Court 1,” Kvitova admitted. “So I’m really glad that I turn it on my side this time.”
The 2013 Wimbledon mixed doubles champion held onto the lone break for most of the set, holding 3 set points – engineering the last with a scintillating all-court rally – but Kvitova was undaunted, winning 11 of the next 14 points to swiftly the first set out from under Mladenovic.
“I started pretty slowly. I was so tight and nervous. I don’t know why. Playing on the Court 1 probably again was something really special. I played a really bad game, the first game. Then she played great. I mean, she was serving pretty well. But I tried to wait for the chances,
“I was probably just a little bit stronger at that time and took it 7-5. From the time I started to feel much better.”
Falling behind an identical break to start the second set, Kvitova moved right in to level the match, and rode that momentum over the finish line, securing victory on her first match point.
It was a near-perfect effort from the former World No 2, who struck 8 aces and 24 winners to 18 unforced errors, converted four of nine break point opportunities.
“I never know what I should expect of myself!” she joked. “I was in the gym, a lot of fitness, and did a lot of running when I wasn’t able to hit.
“Every day I’m still in the draw and hold the racket is much better. Even when the match gets longer, I’m hoping that it’ll help me get more used to the game, and hitting the ball. Luckily, I was right!”
Standing between Kvitova and a spot in the second week is either American Amanda Anisimova or Poland’s Magda Linette.
Anisimova shocked Kvitova at last year’s BNP Paribas Open, in what was a breakthrough tournament for the teenager, but the Czech avenged the defeat earlier this year at the Australian Open en route to the final.
“I think when the match gets little bit longer, I just play better and better. I felt much better in the rallies afterwards. When I put the return in, I just felt maybe it’s on my side when we are playing the rallies,” she said.