Wimbledon Day 7 | Muguruza muscles past Kerber
Of the Grand Slams, Wimbledon is perhaps the quirkiest when it comes to scheduling, with a day off on the middle Sunday to refresh the grass. It gives everyone a chance to catch their breath a bit, and to build up for the business end of the tournament, starting with ‘Manic Monday’.
I think I kind of found a good level, good shots, good serve, playing against her. I played a lot of times against her, and I know her game. For me, it's just another exciting match Garbine Muguruza
For the players, they get to enjoy the grounds without the crowds at an eerily quiet All England Club before every player remaining in the tournament, takes to the court to fight for a place in the quarter-finals when Wimbledon presses the re-start button on Day 7.
Manic Monday is so named because it features all 16 fourth-round clashes in both the men’s and women’s singles competitions, all aiming to claim glory at the third major of the year.
The women’s draw may lack Serena Williams, missing pregnant, but her sister and five-time SW19 champion Venus Williams was still standing, as were world No 1 Angelique Kerber, runner-up at Wimbledon last year and the heavy-hitting trio made up of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbiñe Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko, Roland-Garros winners past and present.
Another former Grand Slam champion, Victoria Azarenka, has shown that her competitive instincts still burn undimmed in just her second tournament back after having a child.
Kerber had been flying under the radar at Wimbledon, quietly making it into the fourth round where she faced her sternest test against the 14th-seeded Spaniard Muguruza.
The lack of hype around Kerber was a reflection of the poor form she had displayed coming into the grass court season, in particular her showing at the French Open where the 29-year-old suffered a humiliating first-round exit.
She was also forced to withdraw from a warm-up event in Birmingham last month due to a hamstring injury, further lowering expectations for Wimbledon.
Kerber was runner-up to Serena Williams last year and needed to get back into the final to hold onto her top ranking, but it was not to be her day.
“I think I have to play good tennis from the first point against her [Muguruza]. I have to be aggressive, as well, and try to play my game from the first ball that we hit,” Kerber said going in to the match, and so she did.
Muguruza had won her last four matches against Kerber, including a third-round victory at Wimbledon in 2015, where she went on to reach the final, which she lost to Serena Williams.
The Venezuela-born 23-year-old has also been in top form at this year’s Championships, reaching the second week without dropping a set.
“I think when you play top players, first of all you [have] got to have your best level,” Muguruza said, knowing she had to be at her very best to win.
“I think I kind of found a good level, good shots, good serve, playing against her. I played a lot of times against her, and I know her game.
“For me, it’s just another exciting match.”
If either were feeling the jitters stepping out onto No 2 Court for their 11.30am start, they didn’t show it, both exuding confidence and middling the ball from the outset.
It was to turn into a high quality, fiercely competitive encounter that was a joy to watch, the outset unclear until the last ball was struck nearly two and a half hours later.
Kerber who, despite being somewhat hampered by her left knee, produced her best display in months but again failed to beat a top-20 opponent.
In a match always destined to be close, there was little to choose between the pair until Kerber broke to go 5-4 up in the first set when, at the end of a fierce rally, her Spanish opponent drove wide and allowed the German to serve out, securing the set with an emphatic smash.
The second set was on-serve until, with Kerber serving at 5-4 down, the tall Muguruza, who had saved three break points in the set, broke to secure it with a fine crosscourt winner.
It was just reward for Muguruza’s attacking and positive play and was warmly appreciated by temporary coach Conchita Martinez, Wimbledon champion in 1994.
Kerber’s left knee, which she appeared to hurt in the first set, was reducing her push-off on serve with the consequent impact on her speed, but the third set became a battle of nerves and stamina in the early afternoon heat.
The German broke in the first game and led 2-0 but both were struggling to hold serve and it was soon 3-all, with two breaks apiece.
In an epic 10-minute game, Muguruza held for 4-3 with the crowd appreciating some hugely entertaining rallies between the determined pair.
Two games later Kerber dealt with two match-point threats, but Muguruza grabbed the third to book her place in the last eight.
“I think was a good match. I know I won it, but I think was a good match for both of us,” Muguruza said in her press conference.
“You know, we battle out there. Every point we give our best.
“Every match that I play against Kerber is like that. I remember two years ago when we played here, was a quite similar match.
“Happy that it went my way, of course, after fighting there for two hours.”
As for Kerber, she was disappointed that the match had been scheduled on Court No 2.
“To be honest, I was really surprised that I was playing on Court No 2,” she said. “But was actually looking forward to playing on one of the two big courts.”
Asked if the scheduling generally shows a lack of respect towards women’s players, Kerber responded: “What can I say? I mean, this is the schedule. This is not my decision.
“It’s the decision from all the others. At the end I have to take this court which I get scheduled on.
“I know it’s always not so easy. There are a lot of good players right now, they are playing on Monday. I mean, I respect everybody.
“But of course I was surprised. This is what I can tell you. But at the end, I mean, it’s not my decision.”
It will go down as a fourth round upset, with Muguruza winning it, 4-6 6-4 6-4, to claim her place in the quarter-finals against Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The Russian prevailed, once again, against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2 6-4, to reach the quarters for the first time in 10 years.
Seeded seventh, Kuznetsova has found Radwanska an agreeable opponent over the past decade and did so again to beat her for the 14th time in 18 matches.
Age 32, Kuznetsova is in the quarter-finals for the fourth time and has yet to drop a set in this year’s Championships, spending less than five hours on court so far.
Having faced opponents with an average ranking of 139 in her opening three matches, Kuznetsova was required to up her game against tricky 9th seed Radwanska and she did so, striking 37 winners to her opponent’s 13.
There was no way back for Radwanska in the first set as she lost the opening four games on a sun-drenched No 3 Court, but the second lasted nearly an hour and contained a succession of long baseline exchanges.
She did a good job of staying with the Russian then, in a set full of long rallies that lasted nearly an hour.
The Pole fought off four break points at 1-all but Kuznetsova, one of 6 Grand Slam Champions to reach the last 16 and the second-oldest woman left standing, kept pushing and got the break at 3-all when Radwanska fired a backhand wide.
Kuznetsova crucially broke in the 7th game, wobbled briefly as she served for victory at 5-4 but then battled back from 15-40 down to nail a backhand winner on match point.
“I think I have an amazing respect from the players, they know they have to play their best to beat me,” Kuznetsova told reporters later, as if she needed something to prove.
“Of course I think I should get more from the fans and from the press. Not many things in life are fair.
“I’ve been out here awhile, and since I was a kid they told me I’m never going to be anywhere near the top.
“I’m used to it. The important thing is to understand that opinions don’t matter. It actually helps me. I felt better here, more free. If people don’t believe in me that’s their choice.”
Simona Halep, the highest remaining seed in the draw at No 2, could take the World No 1 spot if she can reach the semi-finals here at Wimbledon and today was facing Victoria Azarenka.
Should Halep fail to advance to the semis then Czech Karolina Pliskova will take over at No 1 when next week’s rankings are announced.
On a mission, the Romanian dashed the new mum’s comeback dreams,
Azarenka, playing in her second tournament after the birth of her son Leo in December, out-hit and out-thought the second-seed for much of a pulsating first set, mixing deep groundstrokes with frequent drop-shots and forays to the net.
The two-times semi-finalist at the All England Club, however, flagged in the first-set tiebreak, losing it 7-3 before conceding the next five games.
A mini fightback pegged the second-set deficit back to 5-2 before another Azarenka backhand groundstroke error saw Halep home in just under 90 minutes, keeping alive the Romanian’s hopes of a maiden Grand Slam victory and an ascent to the World No 1 ranking.
With one match away from the No 1 ranking, Halep was asked how she felt about it, to which she responded: “No, I want to win more, not just one match. So I’m not thinking about that.
“I knew that is going to be a tough one [match],” Halep told the media.
“Like I said, even she stayed so long, she’s back and she’s playing great. I think was a pretty good tennis out there.
“I’m really pleased with the way I finished the first set. It was very close.
“The tie break actually I played really well. I was remembering the Tie Break Tens from Madrid, so I said that I have to win it [smiling].
“I can say that I felt more relaxed, and I just stepped in and I hit stronger.”
Halep will face Britain’s Johanna Konta in the quarter-finals, who registered her second three-set win of The Championships as she recorded a 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4 triumph over Caroline Garcia, a result which sees her become the first British woman to reach the last eight at SW19 since Jo Durie in 1984.
Konta was quick to acknowledge the form of her opponent, who was superb during the final two sets before having her serve broken during the 10th game of the decider.
The 26-year-old told BBC Sport: “It was such a tough match to play, she is in impressive form, it’s hard to get any rhythm when she’s serving so well and gets her first strike in.
“I was happy that I was able to get enough returns in that final game, I was trying to stay light on my feet and strong in my body.
“There was very little between us today, I was happy to be able to compete and not pay too much attention to the good things she was doing but pay attention to the good things I was doing.
“When I was a little girl, and even now, I dreamt of being in these battles and on the big stages.”
Meanwhile, Venus Williams, who made her Grand Slam debut at Roland Garros in 1997, seven months before her opponent Ana Konjuh, the youngest player remaining, was born.
The Croat, considered as a future Slam winner, couldn’t find a way to stop Venus, the only former Wimbledon champion left standing.
She took a straightforward 6-3 6-2 victory over Konjuh, facing no break points and drilling 19 winners to just 7 unforced errors, to become the oldest Wimbledon quarter-finalist since Martina Navratilova in 1994.
Venus, the eighth oldest woman to win back to back matches at the All England Club, made the difference winning 18 out 27 rallies under four shots, looking fairly unstoppable from the beginning.
The five-time Wimbledon champion saluted her 255th Grand Slam win, her 255-66 record is the fifth in the Open Era behind Navratilova, Evert, Graf and her sister Serena, with a twirl at the net.
Her mother, Oracene, applauded her legendary daughter reaching her 38th Grand Slam quarter-final.
Up next for Venus is another youngster – the French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who was a 6-3 7-6(6) winner after needing 8 match points against Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina.
“When I come to these tournaments, my focus is just me, not necessarily the other 127 women” said Venus.
“So that is all I can control, is my performance. That’s still my focus at the moment.
“Haven’t seen her [Ostapenko] play a lot. I didn’t watch any of the French when I was finished with it. I know she had an amazing moment there. She’s riding on that momentum. Confidence I’m sure. It’s just been such an amazing result for her.
“You know, so I’m definitely really happy for her.”
As for Ostapenko, she said: “Yeah, I mean, first matches were very tough, like very close matches.
“But today also was a tough match. I think I play better with every match, also like at the French, so I hope I can keep it up.”
Asked had she watched Venus Williams, she replied: “I think I was watching more her sister’s matches because she was kind of my idol. Maybe I saw, like, a couple of finals, she was playing the Grand Slams. Honestly, I don’t remember that.”
American Coco Vandeweghe may be only the 24th seed but she has been strongly fancied to do well this fortnight since Day 1, with her attacking game perfectly suited to the grass.
Coached here by 1987 men’s Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, she marched on with an impressive 7-6(4) 6-4 victory over the fifth seed, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, the archetypal queen without a crown, who spent 67 weeks atop the WTA rankings yet still remains without a major title to her name.
Next for Vandeweghe will be the unseeded Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, who extended her career-best Grand Slam performance by overcoming Croatian Petra Martic, 6-4 2-6 6-3, out on Court 18.
Until this year’s Championships, Rybarikova had paid 9 visits to Wimbledon and suffered 8 first-round defeats over that time, with the exception a third-round run two years ago.