Wimbledon Second Tuesday: Kerber, Ostapenko Reach Semifinals

Juan Martin Del Potro advances.

Kerber Angelique Kerber (photo: Wimbledon)

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2018 (Press Release)

As the Wimbledon women’s quarterfinals unfolded Tuesday afternoon at the All England Club minus all of the Top 10 seeds who began play last week, the field of eight headed by No. 11 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany included seven would-be contenders. Each holds close to them dreams of winning the most prestigious prize in tennis, the Venus Rosewater Dish, for a first time. And then, there’s Serena Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon champion from the United States, a most familiar figure on Centre Court, whose motto this fortnight has been, “Everyone always plays me at their greatest. So I have to be greater.”

As the 1 o’clock hour struck in London SW19, Kerber and No. 14 Daria Kasatikina of Russia walked out to do battle on Centre Court under cloudy skies and 20º conditions. Kerber, who has reached the Wimbledon quarterfinal stage four times, has seen remarkable improvement since the start of the year when she was ranked No. 22. As for Kasatkina, there’s a bit of both power and daring to her game that’s fun if not always predictable. She also delivers finesse and delicacy to her shotmaking abilities. “I’m like an artist and I’m playing with the heart. I’m not boring in life and I’m not boring on the court,” she said.

Meanwhile, across the All England Club on No. 1 Court, the unseeded Dominika Cibulkova brought intensity and a formidable game into her match against the former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 12th, who has been described by many as “a gloriously uninhibited ball striker who thinks she’s rediscovering her inspirational Paris 2017 best.”

While Kasatkina lived and died by her artistry against Kerber, she battled hard throughout and wowed the crowd many times with her dazzling array of shots in just her second career Grand Slam quarterfinal after reaching the first one last month at the French Open. As for Kerber, she looked comfortable and played locked in as could be. She thrived under the pressure of the moment and made Kasatkina earn everything during their two very competitive sets.

Finally, on her seventh match point opportunity serving at 6-5, the former No. 1 made it back to the Wimbledon semifinals for the second time in three years by putting away Kasatkina 6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 28 minutes.

Kerber hit 16 winners to 14 unforced errors while Kasatkina finished with 33 winners but committed 31 unforced errors and seven double faults.

“Today I was just playing point by point. We both played on a high level at the end of the match,” Kerber told the BBC in an interview shortly after her victory. “It’s great to win. 

“At the end, nothing mattered. I was just trying to push myself.

“I don’t care who I play next because every match is going to be a tough one. You have to play your best now. I’m looking forward to playing the semifinals and focusing on my tennis.”

Kerber will face Ostapenko during Thursday’s semifinal round in their first career meeting. The No. 12 seed, who reached her first Wimbledon semifinal, beat Cibulkova 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 22 minutes. The Latvian, who is yet to drop a set during the fortnight, played with a “not afraid to miss” style that garnered 33 winners but yielded 28 unforced errors. However, she held Cibulkova to just six winners against 13 unforced errors.

Afterward, Cibulkova praised Ostapenko. “I have to say she was playing really well today. She was playing aggressive.

“She’s young. She’s playing with no fear.”

Looking ahead to Thursday’s clash, should Ostapenko defeat Kerber and reach Saturday’s final, she’ll return to the WTA Top 10.

Del Potro last to advance to men’s quarterfinals

It took two days and five match points, but Juan Martín Del Potro of Argentina recovered from down 1-3 in the fourth set to defeat Gilles Simon of France, ranked 53rd, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5) and advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round against No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal. The fourth set of the four hour and 24 minute match took one hour and 10 minutes to complete on No. 2 Court.

Del Potro finished with 27 service aces and hit 78 winners.

What they’re saying

After completing his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 fourth-round win over Karen Khachanov on Monday evening, three-time Wimbledon champion and No. 12 seed Novak Djokovic was asked by New York Times tennis columnist Christopher Clarey what the bigger challenge has been the past two years: trying to avoid getting ahead of himself or the weight of his past achievements? His answer:

I feel like the big challenge for me, obviously first of all after surgery, was to really be able to be comfortable with the change of racket, with different compensations that I’ve made in the motion of my serve. My game overall was just disturbed. I didn’t feel comfortable on the court for a long time. Indian Wells, Miami, most of the clay season. I just had to go back to basics and  hit as many balls as I can on the practice courts, just get that feel. 

“Also, psychologically, obviously I was so fortunate to have so much success on the tour over the course of 10-plus years. I was a Top 3 player for so many years in a row. It was quite a strange feeling for me not to be able to deliver my game that I know that I possess, that I know I’ve been delivering for so many years. It was frustrating, to be honest. But I had to trust the process. Things are looking much better in the last month and a half.”