Wimbledon | Haddad Maia, Kvitova, Sabalenka and Alexandrova early winners on Saturday

Beatrice Haddad Maia, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka and Ekaterina Alexandrova were among the first to advance to the Last 16 at The Championships on Saturday, Day 6 at SW19, which experienced more rain delays.

I don't see myself as this [a favourite]. I think all the big names are still going through, and playing deep in the tournament. I don't really care about the favourites anymore. I'm happy to be in the second week, as you mentioned, first time after 2014. This is already a big achievement for me. Petra Kvitova

Brazil’s Haddad Maia moved into the 4th-round of Wimbledon for the first time in her career, with an emphatic 6-2 6-2 victory over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in the first match on No 3 Court, a minute before play was suspended due to rain.

The 13th seed came into the match trailing in the head-to-head, with Cirstea having won 4 of their 5 prior meetings, but this time, the Brazilian perfectly mixed powerful hitting with outrageous defence to earn the win in exactly 90 minutes, mere seconds before a 2-hour rain delay hit the grounds.

Haddad Maia, who cracked the Top 10 for two weeks last month, won 80% of her first-serve points and also dominated when returning the Cirstea second serve, winning 15 of those 21 points, and turning that into 5 service breaks.

After not getting beyond the 2nd-round in her first 11 Grand Slam main draw appearances, Haddad Maia has now reached the second week at two consecutive majors, having broken new ground with a massive semi-final result at Roland Garros last month, only falling to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.

She became the first Brazilian woman to reach the Top 10 in the WTA rankings after her semi-final run at Roland Garros a month ago, and was the first to reach the 3rd-round at Wimbledon in the Open era, her run being the best for a Brazilian woman since 3-time singles champion Maria Esther Bueno reached the quarter-finals here in 1968.

She shot out of the blocks on a cloudy morning to convert 2 early breaks and take a 3-0 lead, leaving Cirstea in her tracks, urging herself to ‘Fight, fight, fight’, and although the Romanian did fight back with a break of her own, Haddad Maia attacked the Romanian’s weaker second serve to break once again, and served out the opening set.

Unable to match the power of the taller, left-handed Haddad Maia in the long rallies, a frustrated Cirstea had animated conversations with her coach between games as she sought answers but found few solutions, and the Brazilian continued her dominance to go up 4-0 in the second set.

Backed into a corner, the 33-year-old Romanian finally got herself onto the scoreboard in the second when she induced a rare unforced error off Haddad Maia’s forehand before serving to stay in the match.

That only delayed the inevitable as the Brazilian ground Cirstea down in her final service game, and clinched victory on her first match point, just in time to avoid the rain delay, her biggest threat of the day being caught under court cover as she packed her bags.

She was the last to leave, happily waving to the fans, many of whom were Brazilian.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova does not consider herself a title contender but her form on the grass says otherwise as she defeated qualifier Natalija Stevanovic in straight sets at All England Lawn Tennis Club

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Kvitova, the No 9 seed from the Czech Republic, was not so fortunate as her match was interrupted by the rain, but she eventually reached the 4th round for only the second time since winning the title in 2013 with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Serbian qualifier Natalija Stevanovic.

She subdued the tricky slice artist in an hour and 50 minutes on court, but suffered the 2-hour rain delay in the process, but she fired 5 aces against 7 double-faults, and admitted she had to sharpen her serve to continue her Wimbledon run.

“I think I would love to improve little bit the serve, for sure,” Kvitova said. “I mean, it didn’t work that much today. It was difficult today to kind of ace.

“I think she returning pretty well. It was always dangerous. That’s what I think it would be nice if I improve.”

It is the 7th time that the Czech left-hander has made it into the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, tying Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska for the second-most among women since 2010.

Following the rain break late into the second set, Stevanovic, who is ranked No 225, stretched the Czech to 6 deuces and 3 break points, even winning the longest rally of the match by capping off a breathtaking 20-shot exchange with a forehand winner into the corner.

After watching 3 match points disappear, Kvitova finally triumphed on her 4th attempt.

“It’s been a while since I was in the second week of Wimbledon, so I am very happy,” said the 33-year-old, who is on an 8-match winning streak after capturing the grass-court title in Berlin.

Kvitova, who is one of only two former Wimbledon women’s champions still standing, the other being Elena Rybakina, faces either 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu or 2022 Wimbledon finalist Obs Jabeur next, as she plays for her first SW19 quarter-final since she dismissed Genie Bouchard to capture the 2014 Wimbledon championship.

Still, the Czech is downplaying her status as a title contender, pointing to the women’s ‘Big 3’ of World No 1 Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Rybakina as the favourites.

“I don’t see myself as this [a favourite],” Kvitova told the media. “I think all the big names are still going through, and playing deep in the tournament. I don’t really care about the favourites anymore.

“I’m happy to be in the second week, as you mentioned, first time after 2014. This is already a big achievement for me.”

World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka was back to her dynamic best in beating Anna Blinkova on No 1 Court on Day 6 of The Championships

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

A day after 2nd-seeded Sabalenka was screaming in frustration in her hard-fought, 3-set win over Varvara Gracheva from France, the Belarusian was back to her ball-striking best on No 1 Court with a 6-2 6-3 victory against Russia’s Anna Blinkova, extending her record at the Grand Slams this year to 15-1.

“It was definitely better tennis than yesterday,” Sabalenka said with a smile later. “It was a tough match. Anna played unbelievable tennis.

“I’m super happy to be in this match, especially the seventh game in the second set was really tight.”

In a match between two players who were both barred from competing at the All England Club last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sabalenka made her experience count against an opponent who has never reached the 4th-round of a major.

Sabalenka broke Blinkova, the World No 40, 3 times to take the first set, and then rode her thunderous returns to take a 4-2 lead in the second, before hanging tough in the following game, which took more than 14 minutes and featured 8 deuces and 4 break points for the Russian, for a 5-2 lead.

“It was like a nightmare,” Sabalenka admitted. “It was a tough game. Somehow I managed to finish that game with a win, but it was crazy, and I was super happy to handle myself in that situation.”

The reigning Australian Open champion won’t be getting carried away by reaching second week at Wimbledon, though, but confessed there would be a ‘little celebration’ for making it into the Last 16, keeping her eyes firmly set on another Grand Slam title.

A run to the Last 4 for the current World No 2 came at Wimbledon in 2021, when she made the second week at a major for the first time, and the Belarusian has not looked back since, remaining focused on lasting the distance on grass this time round.

“Yeah, I have really great memories from here,” Sabalenka said. “It was my first breakthrough! I was very happy two years ago to be able to get to the second week. Yeah, since that I, kind of, had more belief in myself in the Grand Slams.

“I don’t think anymore about the second week of the Grand Slam, you know? I kind of felt a little relief after that breakthrough.

“I’m still happy. It’s still a little celebration because of making the second week, but the goal is to go as far as I can. I’m trying to stay focused.”

Ekaterina Alexandrova is the dark horse in the draw, enjoying an excellent run on the grass and defeating Dalma Galfi in just 58 minutes on Saturday morning to meet Aryna Sabalenka in the Last 16

© Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Sabalenka, who has now made it into at least the semi-final stage of her last 3 Grand Slams, clinched the match with her 9th searing ace, and fired 30 winners during her 81-minute breeze on Court One, setting up a 4th-round encounter with No 21 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, who advanced with a 6-0 6-4 victory against Dalma Galfi from Hungary.

Alexandrova has 19 grass-court wins to her name since the start of 2021, which ranks as the third most among WTA players over that period.

Her win on Court 18 against Galfi was a routine rout for the Russia, lasting just 58 minutes, and avoided the rain as it was the first match to finish on Day 6.

The Russian has come quietly through the draw and now finds herself in a position not too dissimilar to Sabalenka a few years ago, because, while she is an obvious talent, she has yet to string together the requisite wins to enjoy a deep run at a major, reaching the 4th-round for only the first time in 25 tries at Wimbledon.

Sabalenka will be aiming to prevent Alexandrova from making a break-through of her own on Monday.



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