A Quartet of Women Remain In Contention At Wimbledon

Karolina Pliskova (photo: Wimbledon video)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

And then there were four: Ashleigh Barty, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Aryna Sabalenka. The Wimbledon Championships, which began nine days ago at the All England Club with a draw size of 128 players, has narrowed down to a quartet of women left competing for the Venus Rosewater Dish come Saturday.

Tuesday’s quarterfinal round began as a record-breaking day at The Championships, with six players competing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time – a record in the Open Era. Also, the men’s quarterfinal lineup was finalized after Hubert Hurkacz won a five-setter over No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev that was spread across two days because of inclement weather.

Pliskova: Now a semifinalist at all four Grand Slams

No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic became just the sixth active player to reach the semifinals of all four Grand Slams on Tuesday. She’s into her fourth major semifinal and first at Wimbledon after beating No. 66 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-2, in one hour and 21 minutes on No. 1 Court with the roof closed.

After Pliskova’s 230-week streak in the Top 10 ended at the start of the Wimbledon fortnight, she’s gone to work and not dropped a set through the first five rounds of the women’s draw in her ninth Wimbledon appearance. By winning her 20th match of the season on Tuesday, she’s into her first major semifinal since the 2019 Australian Open and fourth Grand Slam semifinal overall.

Although she’s through to the semifinals without facing a Top 50 opponent, Pliskova has played solid and intelligent tennis and she’s handled the mental pressure of a major very well – dropping serve just three times the entire tournament. She saved three break points during an 18-point game to hold serve for 5-2 in the second set, then completed the victory on her fourth match-point opportunity. It ended Golubic’s surprising run to the last eight. She was trying to become the first Swiss woman to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since Martina Hingis in 1998.

Against Golubic, Pliskova hit eight aces and 28 winners against 19 unforced errors, and won 83 percent (30 of 36) of her first-serve points. Pliskova’s serve was not broken and she broke Golubic four times in 10 opportunities. The Swiss hit just 10 winners and committed 16 unforced errors.

“I’m super happy to be through because it’s my first semifinal at Wimbledon,” Pliskova said during an on-court interview following her quarterfinal victory. “First time on this court, I think, this year. I had to work really hard to get to this court, so I’m happy I’m here today. I really enjoyed playing on this court. I think we played a good level [of tennis]. The score might look easy, but in the end, it was a bit tricky.

“I think [Viktorija] has been playing some great tennis to beat some great opponents this week. It was not an easy match.”

Later, during her press conference, in assessing her quarterfinal performance, Pliskova said: “Let’s say it was almost perfect. I would find some mistakes for sure. But I always do find something. I think I did well. I think I did exactly what I needed to do to beat her. I was super focused and just tried to play every point, not to give her that many easy balls because I know she doesn’t really miss much.”

With a semifinal against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka coming up, Pliskova was asked if there’s anything she could pinpoint to her success at Wimbledon. She said: “I feel my game has been quite good the past two weeks – even in practices. I’m happy with that and hope it can continue. For now, I’m just going to enjoy this moment.”

Sabalenka: Power means winning, reaching first major semifinal

In her 15th appearance at a major, World No. 4 and second seed Aryna Sabalenka has finally reached her first major semifinal. It happened as a result of the Belarusian defeating No. 21 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-4, 6-3, in an hour and 14 minutes under a closed roof on Centre Court.

Sabalenka’s victory in back of 27 winners was her 34th of the season and it broke the tie between her and Jabeur. She matched her power against Jabeur arsenal of drop shots and slice. On this day, power meant winning. It ended the historic run by Jabeur, who on Monday became the first Arab woman to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

“I just enjoy everything on this surface,” Sabalenka admitted during her press conference that followed her victory. “It’s actually tough to play on grass, but I really enjoy every second on the court. It’s about everything: about serving, about returning, about moving, about everything actually.”

As for Jabeur, who has lost two of the three times she’s faced Sabalenka, she felt her opponent “played the match of her life.”

During her post-match press conference, Jabeur explained: “She served well from the beginning until the end, which is kind of hard for a tennis player to find a solution for in the middle of the match.

“I think she didn’t make a lot of mistakes. But I’m honestly proud of myself for trying and being positive the whole way because it’s not easy to accept that someone is playing good from beginning to the end of the match.

“Today, she deserved to win and I hope she can go as far as she wants to. I know she’s been waiting for this for a long time.”

Kerber: First major semifinal since 2018 Wimbledon

Germany’s Angelique Kerber reached her fourth Wimbledon semifinal – and first since winning The Championships title in 2018 – with a 6-3, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic on No. 1 Court with the roof closed. The victory was her 10th straight – all on grass.

The No. 25 seed Kerber hit 15 winners and required just 75 minutes to continue her run of success at Wimbledon and against No. 19 seed Muchova, whom she is now 3-0 lifetime. Kerber showed she’s playing in championship form. Three years ago, Kerber beat Serena Williams to win the 2018 Wimbledon title. She was also a finalist in 2016 and a semifinalist in 2012 at the All England Club.

“I really enjoy every moment here,” Kerber told the No. 1 Court audience during her post-match interview. “It was a tight match. [Karolina] plays really well, especially on grass. I’m so, so happy to be in the semis here again. It means a lot to me to be playing here in front of you guys.”

Muchova became only the third woman in Wimbledon history following Chris Evert and Jelena Dokic to reach the quarterfinals in her first two appearances at the tournament (in 2019 and this year). However, she was no match for Kerber as her 27 unforced errors attest. Kerber is now 7-0 lifetime against Czech opponents.

In advancing to face No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals, Kerber started quickly against Muchova, going ahead 3-0 and wrapped the first set with a second break. After trailing briefly 2-1 in the second set, Kerber came on strongly and won on her second match-point opportunity.

“The grass is why I’m playing so much better,” Kerber said. “I was so excited to come back on this surface after last year’s [Covid] break from it. I really worked hard in the last few months and weeks. I’m so happy to play my tennis again with my heart on the court, fighting to the last ball, enjoying my time on and off the court. It’s a magic place.”

Later in press, Kerber said talked about the importance of winning a title on grass at Bad Homburg the week before Wimbledon and what it meant to her. “I just to try to continue my play on grass,” she said. “Having, of course, the confidence from the last week, coming here with a little in my bag, gives me also confidence that grass is really my surface.”

Barty: Wins all-Aussie battle against Tomljanovic

World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty won a one-sided quarterfinal against fellow Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-1, 6-3, needing just 66 minutes on Centre Court with the roof closed to advance to her third major semifinal and first at Wimbledon. She secured match point with her fourth ace. By reaching the semifinal round, Barty will retain her No. 1 ranking when the WTA Rankings are updated after the completion of Wimbledon.

On Thursday, Barty will face No. 25 seed Angelique Kerber from Germany, whom she shares a 2-2 lifetime win-loss record against.

Throughout, Barty dominated Tomljanovic, who came in just 3-16 against Top 10 opposition. She hit 23 winners, converted six of 11 break points and outpointed her opponent 61-41. Barty played with purpose and won with mastery of the slice backhand against Tomljanovic to improve her overall record to 33-6 with three titles this season.

Barty was asked if she felt any extra pressure with the eyes of Australia upon her and Tomljanovic – even if it was the middle of the night Down Under.

“To be brutally honest, I actually think I was totally my most relaxed today,” Barty said during a sit-down TV interview with ESPN after her victory against Tomljanovic. “I just wanted to enjoy the sense of the occasion and knowing I was playing Ajla, we know each other well. We’ve spent time together and what an opportunity for both of us playing for a berth in the semis here at Wimbledon. Knowing everyone was watching both of us made me proud to be a part of that match.

“I felt great, felt relaxed and could play with freedom. It ultimately brough out some of my best stuff.”

Hurkacz: Two days to upset Medvedev, Federer next

No. 14 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland reached the quarterfinal round by taking out No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, in a three-hour and two-minute, rain-interrupted fourth-round match that began outside on No. 2 Court on Monday and finished on Centre Court with the roof closed Tuesday afternoon.

The pair resumed play on serve at 4-3 in the fourth set and Hurkacz went to work and attacked the net against Medvedev, who was unable to complete a trio of Russians into the quarterfinals. Instead, it will be Hurkacz who faces eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. Also, it marks Hurkacz’s first appearance in a major quarterfinal.

“Playing on this unbelievable court, probably the best in the world, with an amazing crowd is really special,” Hurkacz, 24, said in an on-court interview. “Daniil is an unbelievable player. We battled so hard on No. 2 Court. So, to win is incredible. … I knew I need to get off to a strong start today and I think I did a pretty good job.”

Hurkacz finished with 10 aces and hit 47 winners to 38 unforced errors. Medvedev’s numbers were: 13 aces, 45 winners, 33 unforced errors. Medvedev outpointed Hurkacz 150-145.

Meanwhile, Medvedev expressed disappointment in defeat.”[I] played really bad today,” the World No. 2 said in press. “He definitely played really well. I played probably [my] worst two sets since Rome. I will just continue working. … Today my best was really low, but I did my best.”

Hurkacz becomes to the fifth Polish man to reach the quarterfinal round at Wimbledon. The last to get to the semifinals was Jerry Janowicz in 2013. As Hurkacz gets ready to face Federer, it’s worth noting that in their only previous meeting, Federer beat Hurkacz 6-4, 6-4 at Indian Wells in 2019.

When Hurkacz was asked during his press conference if he felt he would be at a disadvantage having to come back on zero days rest to face Federer. “No, I think actually playing today might have helped me because I got used to the indoor conditions on the big court, how the ball bounces there, all the crowd. I think that actually can help me in my next-round match,” he said.

And what about facing Federer, who is in pursuit of winning a ninth Wimbledon and 21st major title?

“Roger, what he does, the titles he has won, is a real inspiration,” Hurkacz said. “I will be hoping to get a little bit of support tomorrow.”

Tuesday’s Wimbledon results

Wednesday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

The United States started with 33 players combined in the men’s and women’s singles draws. After Coco Gauff, Madison Keys and Sebastian Korda, the last three, all lost fourth-round matches on Monday, it meant that for the first time since 2014, no Americans reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Canada, the U.S.’s North American neighbor, has placed two players in the quarterfinals, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“A great day for us Canadians and hopefully it keeps going,” Auger-Aliassime said after his five-set victory over Alexander Zverev.

“Quotable …”

“Against Ash, I know that I have to play my best tennis. She has a lot of confidence right now. She played well. I know that I have to play my own game. I have to just think how to play, be aggressive, and try to take the match more in my hands and go for it. Even if I miss a few shots, I have to stay there and try to push her.”

Angelique Kerber on what it will take to beat No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty.

“The only thing I was thinking about is my game, to stay focused and to fight for every point, for every opportunity I had. Today, it surprised me, but I didn’t feel that pressure of being in [a major] quarterfinal for the first time. I was just enjoying the atmosphere and enjoying my game, just doing everything I can to win this match. So, it was [a] great performance for me.”

Aryna Sabalenka on her victory over Ons Jabeur to reach Thursday’s semifinals.

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