Paul Enjoying His British Summer On Grass At Wimbledon

Tommy Paul (photo: Wimledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 5, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

American Tommy Paul is having the time of his life this summer on British grass. Just ask him, just watch him play — and win.

Two weeks after the 25-year-old from New Jersey garnered the biggest title of his career at Queen’s Club in London by winning the cinch Championships, the 12th seed continued his masterful run at Wimbledon by defeating No. 23 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 25 minutes on No. 2 Court Friday following a two-hour rain delay that pushed his morning start into becoming an afternoon match. It was Paul’s eighth career Wimbledon triumph and 23rd lifetime win on grass.

In one of his best performances of the season, the World No. 13 Paul was nearly flawless. He served nine aces, won 85 percent of his first-serve points, hit 37 winners and converted four of nine break-point chances. By the end, he had outpointed Bublik 92-62.

Added up, it was a good day for Paul to have a good day as his British summer on grass keeps getting better. Afterward, he was in a good mood to talk about his winning performance.

“I definitely played very well,” Paul said in s on-court interview with the BBC. “I didn’t make too many mistakes. I was pretty nervous before the match. Obviously, you don’t really know when you’re going to go on with the rain. We got a nice little window here. Hopefully, it holds off for you guys so you can see some more tennis.

“I’m really happy to get the match done today. I thought I played awesome. I didn’t miss too much at all.”

The victory was Paul’s eighth straight on grass this summer and it advanced him to Sunday’s fourth round against either Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain or Fabio Fognini of Italy, whose match was suspended by rain in the fourth set with Fognini leading 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-5, 4-5.

Just how much is Paul enjoying his British summer?

“It’s beautiful as you can see,” Paul quipped. “I love it. I’m playing great on the grass. I’m having a lot of fun.”

One more ball, one more point equals one more win for Alcaraz

Defending Wimbledon’s men’s champion Carlos Alcaraz maintained an attitude of  one more ball, one more point and it served him well as he survived a five-set thriller against Frances Tiafoe on Centre Court with the roof closed.

The World No. 3 from Spain rallied to defeat the 29th seed Tiafoe of the United States,  5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, in three hours and 50 minutes to reach the fourth round for the third straight year. It was his 10th consecutive Wimbledon victory

Alcaraz, 21, put away his 29th victory of the season with a magnificently executed and well-placed backhand drop shot on his first match point opportunity. He yelled “Vamos!” upon achieving the triumph. The two friends and foes shared a big hug at the net.

Alcaraz hit 55 winners to 39 for Tiafoe and outpointed him 161-153.

“It is always a big challenge playing against Frances,” Alcaraz said in his post-match interview on Centre Court. “He is a really talented player and tough to face and we saw it once again that he deserves to be at the top and deserves to fight for big things. It was really difficult for me to adapt my game, find solutions and try to put him in trouble, but I am really happy to do it at the end of the match.

“There were a lot of difficult moments in the fourth set. All I was thinking was ‘OK, fight one more ball’. I was just thinking about the next ball and the tie-break I told myself I had to go for it. If I lose it, I lose it. I went for it all the time and it is good for myself to get through once again.”

Paolini pumped up, first into the second week

No. 7 seed Jasmine Paolini of Italy need just 91 minutes to earn her reservation for the second week of Wimbledon play. It’s a first for the Tuscany native after marching to the finals of Roland-Garros last month.

First on No. 1 Court Friday, the World No. 7 Paolini defeated No. 176 Bianca Andreescu of Canada in the third round of a second straight major, 7-6 (4), 6-1, to reach the second week of Wimbledon for the first time in her career.

Paolini won 14 of her 69 points at the net and converted four of her seven break-point opportunities against the former U.S. Open champion. She hit 17 winners to 13 unforced errors, compared to 20 winners and 21 unforced errors by Andreescu. Paolini outpointed her opponent 69-52.

The diminutive Italian — she’s 5-foot-4 — has become a crowd favorite at Wimbledon for her happy demeanor and hustle. She’s also the first woman from her country to reach the second week in each of the year’s three majors.

“I was enjoying it a lot,” Paolini said of her winning performance, during her on-court interview. “It was nice to play here in front of you guys, so many [fans]. It’s a dream to play in this kind of stadium. I think I played a good match. I hope everyone enjoyed it.

“Thank you for cheering for me. It’s so important to have a stadium full [of fans].”

Next, Paolini will play No. 12 seed Madison Keys of the United States, who beat No. 18 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, 6-4, 6-3, in 81 minutes on Court 17 behind 27 winners.

Sinner enjoys his first straight-set win of the week

World No. 1 and top seed Jannik Sinner capped a mostly wet Friday at Wimbledon under safe cover of the Centre Court roof and wrapped up his first straight-set victory of the fortnight, a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 52 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia. It took an hour and 32 minutes for the South Tyrolean to advance to the second week for the third consecutive year.

After being pushed to four sets in consecutive matches by Yannick Hanfmann of Germany and fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini, Sinner had smooth sailing against Kecmanovic.

“It’s been a very, very busy day here on the Centre Court so I’m glad to finish it off and now get some good recovery,” Sinner said during his on-court interview. “It feels great to be back here. … I love the atmosphere here.

“Me and my team are working very hard to be in this position. My game has improved but we still keep making sacrifices to improve more. I feel the combination with me and my team, we try to get better each day as a player and a person.”

Sinner hit 35 overall winners, including 11 aces, made only 15 unforced errors, converted five of seven break points and outscored Kecmanovic 84-56. Next, Sinner will face either No. 14 seed Ben Shelton of the United States or No. 121 Denis Shapovalov of Canada. Their match was interrupted by rain and will be resumed on No. 1 Court Saturday afternoon, with Shelton leading 3-2 in the first set.

Wozniacki turning back the clock, comeback still alive

In a women’s draw that is being dominated by youth, it’s been refreshing to see Caroline Wozniacki turning back the clock at Wimbledon. On Thursday evening, the 33-year-old Danish star defeated No. 30 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, in two hours and 19 minutes after saving two match points while trailing 4-5 in the third set.

The match between the former No. 1 and oldest remaining player in the women’s draw against Fernandez, 21 — a contest pitting experience versus youth — finished on No. 1 Court after 10 p.m., once it became too dark to play on Court 12.

“This is obviously a great win for me and a very hard-fought win,” Wozniacki said in her post-match news conference. “I’m just thrilled to be out there and competing against the best players in the world.”

After retiring in 2000 to start a family with husband, former NBA All-Star David Lee (they have two young children), Wozniacki began comeback last year that culminated in a fourth-round run at the US Open, losing to eventual champion Coco Gauff of the United States in three sets. This year, she’s compiled an 11-9 win-loss record (including 4-2 on grass) and will meet No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in Saturday’s third round.

Wozniacki, who turns 34 next week, is competing in her 14th Wimbledon. She’s ranked 91st, but is still showcasing the strength of persistence, which helped her win 30 titles — including the 2018 Australian Open — before starting her three-year, family sabbatical.

“I think definitely my experience has helped me on days like today. I’ve been out here for a few years now,” Wozniacki said, with a hint of laughter, during her on-court interview after Thursday’s victory.

“It’s just, I think, also [that] I feel less pressure. You know, I’m just really enjoying myself enjoying the moment, I get to play out here on these big courts in front of an amazing crowd. I mean, I just love it, you know, so I really don’t take anything for granted.”

Looking ahead to facing Rybakina, who won the 2022 Wimbledon title, Wozniacki said: “That’s going to be a tough one. But, you know, I gotta serve well, return well, move well and do everything well for a chance to beat her.”

Around the All England Club

Following a two-hour rain delay that pushed back outside play to 1 p.m., the men’s upper half of the draw and the women’s lower half were in action. The rain returned about 4:50 p.m., but not before six singles matches (5 women’s and 1 men’s) and 11 doubles matches (8 men’s and 3 women’s) had been finished. Play was later cancelled on all outside courts, which makes a crowded Saturday order of play even more packed.

• World No. 2 and second seed Coco Gauff won the final eight games of her third-round match against 298th-ranked British qualifier Sonay Kartal inside No. 1 Court and cruised to a 6-4, 6-0 victory to move into the second week at Wimbledon.

The 20-year-old Floridian began the third-round match by winning the first eight points. Gauff won 90 percent of her first-serve points, dropping only three points on her serve, hit 16 winners, broke Kartal’s serve five times and outpointed her opponent 58-32.

Kartal, 22, only the second British woman in the Open Era to reach this stage after coming through qualifying, was unable to master Gauff but not for a lack of trying.

“It’s been a great tournament for her and she came up with a high level in the first set,” Gauff spoke of Kartal in her on-court interview. “She didn’t give me much to work with. I never felt settled and she’s obviously very quick. She had nothing to lose and I had a lot of pressure.

“I think this was my first time ever playing a British player here so I was honestly a bit nervous, as I knew you guys would support her, which is totally understandable. Thankfully you guys are pretty nice to me and always really respectful. Playing in front of the British crowds is really great.”

Gauff, who has lost just 10 games in three matches, will face fellow American and 19th seed Emma Navarro on Sunday.

• On No. 1 Court, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Gaël Monfils of France faced off in a battle of former junior Wimbledon champions. While the two veterans of ATP Tour had met five previous times, this was their first encounter in more than eight years and third at a Grand Slam. It was the 33-year-old 10th seed’s turn to shine. Dimitrov defeated the 37-year-old Monfils, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, in one hour and 47 minutes to advance to the Wimbledon fourth round for the fourth time in 14 SW19 appearances.

Dimitrov won 95 percent of his first-serve points — dropping just two points on his first serve — and hit 25 winners while making just 10 unforced errors. He outpointed the 33rd-ranked Monfils 99-67.

• On No. 1 Court, with the roof closed, British wild card  Emma Raducanu advanced to the second week with a 6-2, 6-3 upset victory over No. 9 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece in an hour and 32 minutes.

The 135th-ranked Raducanu saved all seven break points she faced from Sakkari, hit 15 winners and benefited from 31 unforced errors by her opponent. Raducanu outpointed Sakkari 69-52.

“I’m very pleased of course,” Raducanu said in her post-match news conference. “I think I played a really good match. That’s honestly the thing I’m happiest with, just the level I put on the court today. I’m just looking forward to getting out there for the next round.”

• On Court 15, unheralded Lulu Sun shined brightly for all to see and appreciate. The 123rd-ranked qualifier from New Zealand defeated No. 61 Zhu Lin of China, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6) in the third round and will next face Raducanu.

With her second straight upset victory, after eliminating No. 8 seed Zheng Qinwen of China in the first round, Sun became the first New Zealand woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon in the Open Era, and first since Ruia Morrison in 1959. Sun is also the first New Zealand woman to reach the fourth round of any major since Belinda Cordwell made the 1989 Austalian Open quarterfinals.

• Among the seeds advancing: Women — No. 19 Emma Navarro of the United States, who defeated No. 30 Diana Shnaider of Russia, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

• Among the seeds upset: Women — No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who lost to No. 93 Paula Badosa of Spain, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-4, and No. 28 Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, who fell to No. 37 Donna Vekic of Croatia, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 6-1.

Friday’s Wimbledon results

Saturday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

With all of the rain that’s befallen Wimbledon during the first week, it’s worth noting that the Centre Court roof has been a welcome fixture at the All England Club since 2009. According to David Law of The Tennis Podcast, the first entire match to be played indoors, under the closed Centre Court roof, was a fourth-round five-setter between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka on June 29, 2009, won by Murray, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, during the 2009 Wimbledon Championships.

“Quotable …”