WASHINGTON, July 5, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal advanced to a third round matchup with 77th-ranked #NextGenATP Aussie Alex De Minaur by defeating Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, in the opening match on Centre Court on Thursday afternoon. While the two-time Wimbledon champion exited by the second round in three of his past five Wimbledon appearances, this time, he didn’t let it happen again.
Meanwhile, defending Wimbledon women’s champion Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, seeded third, was upset by the quiet and unassuming – but powerful – Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. The 5-foot-8-inch, 24-year-old red-headed Belgian from Vilvoorde, Belgium, had won only once in four previous Wimbledon appearances. However, Thursday was her day to shine. The 47th-ranked Van Uytvanck put away match point just minutes before daylight waned on No. 2 Court. It was just the second time in the Open Era that a defending women’s champion had lost before the third round.
Van Uytvanck made a remarkable turnaround after losing the first set. She finished with seven breaks of service against Muguruza and was ahead by a double-break as she served for the match in the third set. She won the final four points of the one hour and 51 minute match. Van Uytvanck outpointed Muguruza, 90-75.
Through to the third round at #Wimbledon for the first time – and defeating the defending champion to seal it…
A brilliant performance, Alison Van Uytvanck 👏 pic.twitter.com/SrBuWbKr9e
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) 5. Juli 2018
On his way to improving his career head-to-head against the 90th-ranked Kukushkin to 4-0, Nadal broke his opponent five times over the course of their two hour and 23 minute encounter and outpointed Kukushkin 106-85 to gain his 14th straight victory and 28th in his last 29 matches.
De Minaur, who advanced to the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time when he beat France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 6-2, 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-3, drew praise from Nadal during his post-match meeting with the Wimbledon media. “He’s good. He’s young. he’s dangerous. Good player. So let’s see, it’s a good challenge for me,” said Nadal. “I am very happy the way that I played today. That’s goin to be a good energy to play the next round.”
Halep near-perfect in easy win
Womens’ top seed Simona Halep of Romania grew stronger, game by game. By the end of her 76-minute match, she played a near-perfect second set in beating 126th-ranked Saisai Zheng of China, 7-5, 6-0, on No. 1 Court. Next, Halep will face Su-Wei Hsieh of Tapei, ranked No. 52. Hseih advanced over 77th-ranked Lara Arruabarrena of Spain, 6-3, 6-3.
Del Potro continues his rejuvenating season
Always a fan favorite, Argentine Juan Martín del Potro easily moved past Feliciano Lopez of Spain, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, in an hour and 36 minutes, to move into the third round at Wimbledon for the fifth time in his career. The 24-minute second set was a turning point during the match in which del Potro won every point on his serve and Lopez held serve just once. Overall, del Potro hit 23 winners to only five unforced errors and he fired 13 aces and committed just one double fault.
“I played my best game today,” said del Potro during his post-match press conference. “I was focused all the time since the beginning of the match to the last point of the game. I took all my break point chances and I think that was the key.”
Del Potro’s win sets up a third-round match on Saturday against 48th-ranked Benoit Paire of France, who upset No. 26 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 0-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
“I’m going match by match,” said the Argentine. “I’m excited to keep improving and see how far I can go.”
Other men’s results
• No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev‘s match against 68th-ranked American Taylor Fritz was suspended because of darkness with Fritz ahead of the German two sets to one. Zverev and Fritz played for two hours and 11 minutes on No. 1 Court before being called off the court at 9 o’clock London time following the completion of the third set. It will be resumed on Friday. Zverev won the first set 6-4 before Fritz rebounded in the second 7-5. Fritz surged ahead and won the third set in a tie-break, 7-0, with an inside-out forehand winner.
• No. 14 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina was upset by Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4 7-6 (3). Next, Vesely will take on No. 19 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy, who advanced over lucky loser and fellow Italian Simone Bolelli, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
• No. 15 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia prevailed over 44th-ranked Robin Haase of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Next, Kyrgios will face No. 24 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, who advanced over lucky loser Bernard Tomic, ranked 162nd, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7), 7-5.
• Ernests Gulbis of Latvia upset No. 27 seed Damir Dzhumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.
Other women’s results
• No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia defeated 51st-ranked Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 6-1, 6-3. Next, she faces qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia, ranked 132nd, who took out No. 24 seed Maria Sharapova in an all-Russian affair on Tuesday. Thursday, Diatchenko beat 76th-ranked Sofia Kenin of the U.S., 6-4, 6-1.
• No. 15 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over 82nd-ranked Sachia Vickery of the U.S.
• No. 28 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia eased by 75th-ranked Jennifer Brady of the U.S., 6-2, 7-6 (4).
• If second-seeded Rafael Nadal, the world No. 1 beats Alex De Minaur in Saturday’s third-round battle, he will retain his No. 1 ATP Ranking on July 16 when the rankings are updated following Wimbledon. However, if the Aussie upsets the Spaniard and No. 1 seed Roger Federer goes on to win his ninth Wimbledon title, the Swiss maestro will climb to the top of the rankings.