Wimbledon Day 4: Cilic Out, Kerber Rebounds

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

Last year’s Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic, who was picked by many as a favorite to win this year, was stunned by Guido Pella in Thursday’s second round, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5, on No. 1 Court, in a match that lasted three hours and 12 minutes and was played over two days because of rain.

After third seeded Cilic, ranked fifth, hit an unforced error off a forehand return on match point, the 82nd-ranked native of Bahia Blanca, Argentina, didn’t know how to react to his victory. The left-handed Pella dropped his racket and ran both of his hands through his hair. He stood still for a moment; his face bore shock over what he had just accomplished. After all, Pella had never beaten a Top 5 player in his career, which began in 2007, or reached the third round at Wimbledon. Then, he raised both of his hands and waved to the crowd. Finally, he was congratulated by Cilic at the net.

Afterward, during an interview the BBC, Pella credited yesterday’s rain delay, which suspended play until today and gave him a chance to refocus. “Today, I tried to play more aggressive and to hit the ball hard and fight every ball. I think that’s why I won,” said Pella.

The Argentine overcame 27 service aces by Cilic, who also converted 80 percent of his first serves into points and controlled the net throughout. Pella recorded 14 aces and did not commit any double faults. He overcame six breaks of his serve by breaking Cilic three times. He was outpointed by the Croatian 150-139.

“Every time you can win a match in a Grand Slam, it’s a good feeling and it brings confidence,” said Pella.

“(Grass) isn’t my favorite surface – and I was close to defeat – but,  I’m very happy now. I’m excited to be in the next round.”

In the third round, Pella will face unseeded Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S., who is ranked 103rd.

Kerber’s experience pays off

At No. 237, qualifier Claire Liu of the United States was the lowest-ranked women’s player who advanced to the second round of this year’s Wimbledon. For at least the first set, which the 18-year-old Liu won 6-3, the 2017 junior Wimbledon champion played well above her world ranking against two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Then, Kerber’s experience took over. Playing in her 10th Championships main draw, she rebounded in the second set by elevating her game to hit 11 winners and broke her opponent twice to even the match with a 6-2 set win. Although Liu fought off a match point in the ninth game of the third set, Kerber was steady when she needed to be the most – and the 11th seed won on her second match-point opportunity to advance with a well-earned 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory.

In outpointing Liu 98-84, Kerber took advantage of six breaks of serve and she won 46 return points – 10 more than Liu.

Kerber’s third-round opponent will be No. 18 seed Naomi Osaka, who ended the hopes of young Briton Katie Boulter, ranked 122nd, 6-3, 6-4.

Going the distance times two

In a pair of men’s second-round matches that were carried over because of Wednesday’s rain suspension, going the five-set distance was what it took for No. 9 seed John Isner of the U.S. and No. 31 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece to win. Isner, who seems to thrive on playing marathon-length matches during Grand Slams, held off Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-5, while Tsitsipas prevailed over American Jared Donaldson, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3.

During his three hour and 46 minute match on Court 12, Isner fired 64 service aces en route to winning 97 first-serve points in 121 attempts, an 80 percent success rate. The agile 6-foot-10-inch Isner came into the net as needed and won 27 of 51 net point chances. He broke Bemelmans four times in 10 tries and saved all three break-points he faced. Isner outpointed Bemelmans 176-156.

Meanwhile, Tsitsipas hit 18 aces and won 67 points on Donaldson’s serve. The Greek created 21 break-point opportunities and converted five of them. He outpointed the American 156-135 during their three hour and 25 minute match on Court 18.

Wawrinka loses in straight sets

Stan Wawrinka, whose 2018 season has been hampered by an injury that required surgery on his left knee last summer, was eliminated in the second round by Thomas Fabbiano, 7-6 (7), 6-3, 7-6 (6) in a match that was suspended by rain Wednesday evening in the third set. Wawrinka, twice a quarterfinalist who was playing in his 13th Wimbledon singles draw, was unable to rebound from blowing four consecutive set points during the first-set tie-break after having a night to sleep on it. The steadier Italian Fabbiano fought off two set points during the third-set tie-break after play resumed. He outpointed Wawrinka 126-118 and overcame 17 service aces by the Swiss.

Bouchard’s luck runs out

Canadian qualifier Eugenie Bouchard‘s luck ran out in the second round as she lost to No. 17 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, 6-4, 7-5. Bouchard, once a Wimbledon finalist in 2014 but whose ranking has plummeted to No. 188, had to win three straight matches in qualifying last week just to reach the main draw. On Tuesday, she defeated Gabriella Taylor of Great Britain to set up her meeting against Barty on No. 3 Court. On Thursday, Barty was the steadier player, hitting nine aces, winning 83 percent of her first serves, dominating at the net and breaking Bouchard’s serve three times. Barty outpointed Bouchard 78-68.

Other men’s results

• No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson defeated Andreas Seppi, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, to set up a third-round meeting with No. 25 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German defeated Gilles Muller, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3).

• No. 12 Novak Djokovic won in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 over Horacio Zeballos.

Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. rebounded from a set down to beat French veteran Julien Benneteau in his last Wimbledon singles appearance before he retires, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, on Court 15.

Other women’s results

• No. 14 Daria Kasatkina beat Yulia Putintseva, 6-2, 6-3.

•No. 23 Barbora Strycova defeated Leisa Tsurenko, 6-4, 6-1.

• No. 26 seed Daria Gavriolova advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-1 win over fellow Australian Sam Stosur.

• No. 27 Carla Suarez-Navarro won over her fellow Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-4, 6-1.

Newsworthy

• Wednesday’s loss by women’s No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki was greeted in Denmark with the following headline in Ekstra Bladet: “End: Finished in Wimbledon. Wozniacki in amazing horror!” Meanwhile, on Page 1A of The New York Times, the headline “Tennis Star Is ‘Mrs. Williams’ to Wimbledon, if Not to You” notes that although Serena Williams married Alexis Ohanian, an internet entrepreneur, last fall, she’s not taken his name. Still, as Karen Crouse and Ben Rothenberg, in a co-bylined story, note about Serena: “Wimbledon is broadcasting her marital status with every match. Ms. Williams, a 23-time major champion with career earnings of more than $84 million, said Monday she was still figuring out how she wants to be addressed.

“‘It still doesn’t register that I’m married actually,’ she joked when asked about the matter. ‘So much has happened in the past 12 months.'”

• By the close of play on Wednesday, 13 women’s matches had taken place on Centre Court and No. 1 Court, the two largest arenas at Wimbledon, compared to eight men’s matches. “I think it’s wonderful. I was really overjoyed when I saw the schedule,” said seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams. Indeed, as the Daily Mail in London reported, “The Championships have seen an abrupt shift in the gender proportion of contests hosted on Centre and Number One courts so far in 2018.”

Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund represent home country England’s best hopes at this year’s Wimbledon. Both are British No. 1s and each was rewarded with Centre Court assignments during Thursday’s schedule. Konta lost to Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-4, while Edmund, seeking to reach the third round for the first time in six attempts, beat American qualifier Bradley Klahn, one of the lowest-ranked players remaining in the men’s draw at No. 168, 6-4, 7-6 (0), 6-2. With Andy Murray pulling out at the last moment from this year’s Championships, Edmund’s profile has become enhanced. “It’s not like I’m a big deal or anything like that,” said Edmund as quoted by the Wimbledon website.

• On this date 50 year ago, July 5, 1968, Australia’s Rod Laver won the first “Open” Wimbledon by defeating fellow countryman Tony Roche, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in just 59 minutes. It was the third straight Wimbledon title for Laver, who won in 1961 and 1962 before turning professional.