Wimbledon Day 6: Kerber, Djokovic Book Their Tickets For Round Of 16 With Impressive Wins

Ernests Gulbis stuns Alexander Zverev.

Kerber Angelique Kerber (photo: Wimbledon)

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

Some fans and critics of women’s tennis say it is too unpredictable because there aren’t any leading players. However, others say it’s exactly what makes the women’s game so great to watch now.

Take for instance, No. 11 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, the highest-remaining seed in the upper half of the Wimbledon women’s draw after the first week and second-highest seed overall, behind No. 7 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. The two-time Grand Slam champion Kerber is through to the second week of this year’s Championships for the third straight year, thanks to a solid 6-2, 6-4 win over Naomi Osaka of Japan, ranked 18th, in just 63 minutes on Centre Court Saturday afternoon.

“I think it was a really tough match,” said Kerber during her post-match press conference. “I know how she’s playing and what to expect. For me, it was important to play my game from the first point, to really be aggressive, have the tension on my side of the court, just trying to enjoy also the match on the Centre Court. Yeah, actually I’m happy how I played the match against her.”

The 10th-ranked Kerber was in control of this matchup of Top 20 players from the outset, a far cry from their first meeting when Osaka stunned Kerber in the first round of last year’s U.S. Open, where Kerber was the defending champion. This time, Kerber dominated the first set by hitting 10 winners, committing just one unforced error, and winning 67 percent of her second-serve points to go with an 84 percent success rate in her return points. Overall, the 2016 Wimbledon finalist finished with 23 winners and just five unforced errors. She never faced a break point from Osaka, who was making her first appearance on Centre Court.

By advancing, Kerber became the only women’s player to have reached the Round of 16 or better in all three of this year’s Grand Slams.

Djokovic takes step in right direction

Three-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic took a step in the right direction during the third round Saturday. In fact, he made a statement in his comeback road from an elbow injury that sidelined him earlier this year by reaching the men’s fourth round with a gut-check, four-set win over host favorite Kyle Edmund of England. Afterward, the Serbian called his 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 triumph, which kept the fans on Centre Court fixated for nearly three hours, “not an ideal situation for me, but I came back.”

Indeed, Djokovic played like a champion and showed much poise. Commentator Ted Robinson, who called the Djokovic-Edmund match for U.S. broadcaster Tennis Channel, tweeted afterward: “His facial expressions at match’s end were sign that he’s engaged. Those last 15 minutes were impressive.”

Djokovic fired 18 aces, won 82 percent of his first-serve points (63 of 77), controlled the net efficiently and broke Edmund four times in 17 opportunities. He outpointed the Briton 133-106.

With Edmund gone, there’s no British singles player in the second week at Wimbledon for the first time since 2007.

“It was tough today,” said Djokovic during his post-match interview with the BBC. “Edmund has been playing very well lately. He won our last encounter. He’s improved a lot, especially on the backhand side. 

“I’m looking forward to the second week of this Grand Slam. I’ve had a lot of wonderful memories on both the Centre Court and Court No. 1.”

Next for Djokovic will be 40th-ranked Karen Khachanov of Russia, who went the distance to defeat American Frances Tiafoe, ranked 52nd, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-1, on Court 12.

Zverev bows to unseeded Gulbis

Former World No. 10 Ernests Gulbis of Latvia hadn’t won three tour-level matches in a row since the 2016 French Open. On Saturday, Gulbis stunned fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany in the third round, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, by maintaining his composure. He won 10 of the final 11 games – and captured 76 percent of his service points in the final two sets – during the three hour and 20 minute match played on No. 1 Court.

The 138th-ranked Gulbis became the first qualifier to advance to the Wimbledon Round of 16 since Brian Baker of the United States achieved the feat in 2012.

Next, Gulbis will face No. 24 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, who fought off No. 15 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia, 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in a tidy one hour and 37 minutes on No. 1 Court with little daylight remaining. Nishikori will be playing in his third Round of 16 at Wimbledon in 10 appearances.

Other men’s results

• Unseeded Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic advanced by defeating No. 19 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, to set up a Round of 16 meeting with No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal on Monday.

Other women’s results

• No. 26 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia fell to unseeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, seeded 50th, 6-3, 6-1.

What they’re saying

According to the WTA Insider, No. 1 seed Simona Halep of Romania, who lost to unseed Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, was “disappointed not with her effort but her attitude today.” Halep said of Hsieh: “She played really well. She stayed there for every point. All the credit to her. Actually, it was okay as a game (from me). I just believe that I was not very positive on the court. The match was very unprofessional for me. I was too tired. I have pain everywhere. I will not find the excuses about this match. She deserved to win, but still, I’m sad about myself today.”