Alcaraz Moves To Within Three Wins Of Retaining His Wimbledon Title

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 7, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Reigning Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz won his 11th straight match at the All England Club Sunday afternoon with Hall of Fame great Rod Laver watching appreciatively from the front row of the Royal Box.

No doubt, the Rocket gave his nod of approval following the World No. 3 and third seed Alcaraz’s latest triumph on grass, in which he showed great flashes of brilliance that were matched by his hustle and desire.

With the roof closed on Centre Court, the 20-year-old Spaniard reached his ninth career major quarterfinal with a 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 victory over No. 16 seed Ugo Humbert of France in three hours. It was the first time Alcaraz had faced a lefty at Wimbledon.

“Playing a lefty is always tricky. I played a lefty [Jack Draper] at Queen’s and learned a bit from that match. I felt great playing today. I played at a really high level,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview.

With Sunday’s fourth-round victory, his 30th triumph of the 2024 season, Alcaraz drew level with his coach and one-time major champion, Juan Carlos Ferrero, as he tied for third place for the most quarterfinal appearances at Grand Slam tournaments by Spaniards in the Open Era.

After moving ahead two sets to none, Alcaraz dropped the third set 6-1. However, he saved three break points from 3-4 love-40 in the eighth game to hold serve for 4-all and marched on to victory.

After defeating seven-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic in five sets to win last year’s title, Alcaraz remains in pursuit of his third trophy of the season and fourth major title overall. Last month, Alcaraz won his third career Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros.

Looking back on his win over Humbert, which came two days after pulling out a grueling five-set win against No. 29 seed Frances Tiafoe of the United States, Alcaraz said:

“I felt great playing today. I felt I played to a really high level. I tried to fight for every ball,” he said. “It doesn’t matter which part of the court I am in, just giving myself the chance to stay alive in the point. On set point, that was a really important point for me. It didn’t matter what he was going to do, I am going to be there, fighting until the last ball.”

Alcaraz fired 14 aces and hit 45 winners overall, two fewer than Humbert. He converted six of eight break points and outpointed his opponent 121-117.

On Tuesday, Alcaraz will face recent Queen’s Club titlist and Wimbledon No. 12 seed Tommy Paul of the United States, who defeated 112th-ranked Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-2, in two hours and two minutes on No. 2 Court. Paul wrapped up the fourth-round victory in waning daylight at 8:55 p.m. London Time with his 11th ace.

“We knew it was getting dark,” Paul quipped in his on-court interview. “The last set, I began to play unbelievable. It worked out good.”

Sinner shuts down Shelton in straight sets

American Ben Shelton knew he would need to find deep energy to beat top seed Jannik Sinner on No. 1 Court Sunday afternoon with the roof closed. After all, having played three straight five-set matches and spending more than 10 hours on court in the opening three rounds just to make it to the round of 16 would take a lot out of anyone.

By contrast, the World No. 1 Sinner had spent just over eight hours on court across 11 sets in his first three matches. In their previous meeting, the Italian won in straight sets at Indian Wells last March in the round of 16 and had beaten Shelton in two of their three career matches.

This time, it was Sinner who prevailed over the No. 14 seed Shelton, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (9), in two hours and eight minutes to advance to the quarterfinals of The Championships for the third straight year. Sinner, 22, is the first Italian man to reach the last eight at Wimbledon three times.

Shelton came into the match having played every day of the tournament due to rain, and he played a maximum 15 sets through three rounds. Sinner dominated rallies of zero to four shots by an 81-62 margin and kept Shelton pushed well behind the baseline during many of their rallies.

Sinner did what other opponents of Shelton weren’t able to do: they neutralized his serve. Although Shelton served 15 aces, he won only 70 per cent of his first-serve points and was broken four times. His fourth double fault on match point abruptly ended the match. Sinner finished with 28 winners and outpointed his opponent 104-82.

“It was a very tough match especially the third set,” Sinner said in his on-court interview. “In the tie-break, I had to save one set point at 5-6.This kind of match can go so very long. I’m very happy I won it in three. The atmosphere was great so thanks.”

Next, Sinner will play fifth seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who won by retirement over 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.

Dimitrov slipped at 2-3 in the first set, then received a medical timeout for a knee issue. He tried to play on for three more games, but retired after only 35 minutes on No. 1 Court with Medvedev leading 5-3.

Medvedev was asked in his on-court interview about facing Sinner, whom he has beaten in six of 11 previous meetings. “I need to play my best tennis. He got me like the last 5 times I think,” he said. “If I’m not mistaken, four of them were really tough. The last one he kind of won easy. So, I’m going to try to play my best tennis. It’s the first time we meet on grass. It’ll be an interesting battle. I’ll go there and give my 100 percent.”

Record-setting win for Paolini but with mixed emotions

What began as a highly entertaining and competitive fourth round match between Top 20 foes, Jasmine Paolini of Italy and Madison Keys of the United States, was cut short by an injury suffered by the American that ended in her retiring late in the third set.

As a result, the World No. 7 Paolini has become the first Italian woman in the Open Era to reach the singles quarterfinals at both Roland-Garros and Wimbledon in the same season. Also, she’s the fifth Italian woman to make the last eight at Wimbledon in the Open Era.

On Sunday afternoon, with the roof closed on No. 1 Court, the seventh seed Paolini advanced by retirement over Keys, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 5-5. The 12th-seeded American had left the court during the changeover following the ninth game to receive medical treatment and a heavy wrapping of her left thigh, which she injured during the ninth game.

Keys was visibly in pain and driven to tears after being unable to effectively move about the court – especially during her last service game. After Paolini evened the third set at 5-all by breaking her opponent’s serve, Keys retired.

Paolini came come within two points of winning the match in a second-set tie-break, which she had forced after earlier trailing in the set 5-1. In the decider, Paolini fell behind 5-2 before mounting another comeback.

“Right now, I’m so sorry for her,” Paolini said in her on-court interview. “To end the match like this is bad. What can I say? I think we played a really good match. It was tough. A lot of ups and downs. I’m feeling a bit happy but also sad for [Madison]. It’s not easy to win like that.”

In Tuesday’s quarterfinal round, Paolini will face No. 19 seed Emma Navarro of the United States, who upset World No. 2 and second seed Coco Gauff, 6-4, 6-3, in 74 minutes on Centre Court Sunday evening in an all-American tussle.

While Gauff might have benefited after World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland lost on Saturday, Navarro outplayed the highest-remaining seed from start to finish. Now, the 2021 NCAA singles champion is through to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal after seven major appearances — and fourth seed and 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan is the highest seed remaining in the women’s draw.

Navarro hit 10 winners, converted three of four break points against Gauff and outpointed the reigning US Open champion 61-54.

“I don’t have a ton of words. Just really grateful to be here on Centre Court,” Navarro said. “A tournament with so much history and tradition that so many legends have played on before me. … I can’t wait to play again.”

Around the All England Club

No. 37 Donna Vekic of Croatia endured three rain delays to win her fourth-round match over No. 93 Paula Badosa of Spain, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, in an hour and 38 minutes. She advanced to her first Wimbledon quarterfinal in her 10th tournament appearance.

After starting the 11 a.m. scheduled match two hours late due to a rain on outside No. 2 Court, Vekic endured three more stoppages of play and finally closed out the win at 6:35 p.m. London Time.

Vekic hit 33 winners, converted all four of her break-point chances and outpointed Badosa 74-70. She’s the fourth Croatia woman to reach the Wimbledon last eight, along with Mirjana Lucic, Karolina Sprem and Iva Majoli.

Next, Vekic will face 123rd-ranked New Zealand qualifier Lulu Sun, who ended the run of 135th-ranked British wild card Emma Raducanu, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, in two hours and 50 minutes on Centre Court Sunday evening. Sun, who has won seven straight matches (three in qualifying and four in the main draw), hit 52 winners and outpointed Raducanu 111-95.

“When I was walking out to Centre Court, I was like ‘I’ve never seen this.’ was just like looking around and taking it all in for the first time. I’m just super happy to be able to play on this court in front of all of you. It’s just such an amazing experience for me,” Sun said in her on-court interview.

Sunday’s Wimbledon results

Monday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

Holger Rune‘s 1-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory against Quentin Halys Saturday evening on No. 1 Court was the 10th successful comeback from 0-2 down this fortnight, setting a new Open Era record for most comebacks from 0-2 down in a year at Wimbledon.

“Quotable …”

“For me going from this kind of tennis where I felt like I’m playing the best tennis in my life to another surface where I kind of struggle a little bit more, it’s not easy. …

“All that stuff really combines to me not really having a good time in Wimbledon. …

“My tank of really pushing myself to the limits became suddenly, like, empty. I was kind of surprised. But I know what I did wrong after Roland Garros. I didn’t really rest properly. I’m not going to make this mistake again.”

— World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek, from her post-match news conference on Saturday, following her 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 third-round loss to Yulia Putintseva om No. 1 Court.