A Tale Of Two Matches: Barty Breezes Into Wimbledon Third Round, Kerber Stunned By Lucky Loser Davis

LONDON, July 4, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty raced into the third round of the Wimbledon Championships easily on Thursday. However, a couple of hours later, defending champion and fifth seed Angelique Kerber was not so fortunate, stunned by lucky loser Lauren Davis from the United States.

Barty’s comprehensive, 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck lasted just 55 minutes. So, fans who meandered too long about the All England Club before arriving at No. 2 Court – or those tuning late to watch on worldwide TV – might have missed the victory that extended the Aussie’s winning streak to 14 matches. It was smooth, filled with plenty of slices and lobs, and Barty just being Barty, plotting her way about the grass court looking for ways to win without showing any hint of pressure.

Meanwhile, Kerber and Davis faced different kinds of pressure – one that accompanied a defending champion who was trying to rebound from a disappointing clay season, the other who was coming back from injury and and trying to turn her career around. The 5-foot-2 Davis beat the odds – a 95th-ranked player who arrived in the main draw earlier this week as a lucky loser after failing to come out of the final round of qualifying – and beat the World No. 5 Kerber from Germany, a three-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 player.

Davis’ 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 win after an hour and 55 minutes on No. 2 Court was a remarkable statement considering she rolled her ankle in the sixth game of the first set that required treatment before she came back to capitalize on her opportunities later on.

“I told myself, ‘you’re strong, you can do it, you belong here’,” said Davis, who saved three break points in the sixth game of the second set, which she called a turning point of the match. Although Kerber finished with 45 winners, her 50 unforced errors – many of them from playing aggressively – outnumbered her ability to come back.

“I was trying to finding my game the whole match actually. I was not really feeling good from the beginning. I don’t know why. I mean, the energy was not there,” Kerber said following the match.

“She played good. She played very well in the last set as well. I tried. She is also a really tricky opponent. She played a lot of slice. She moved good in the third set. I was not able to finish the match in the way I would like to.”

Davis, 25, from Ohio, dropped outside of the Top 200 earlier this year and has been steadily working her way back up the rankings ladder.

“It’s been a tough journey, it’s definitely a process of learning and growing, getting to know myself as a player and a person,” Davis said during her post-match press conference. “Dropping that much in the rankings has definitely made this all the more fulfilling.”

Next, Davis will face No. 30 seed Carla Suárez Navarro from Spain, who advanced over 88th-ranked Pauline Parmentier of France, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4).

Barty doing all the right things

Before Barty’s match, she spoke about her preparation for the fortnight. “The only pressure I have is what I put on myself, making sure I’m doing all the right things, preparing in the right way. Ultimately, when we play our matches, we go out there and enjoy it.”

Barty, the reigning French Open champion who came into the London fortnight with a triumph at last month’s Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, won the first five games of the match before the 58th-ranked Van Uytvanck held her serve. Although the Belgian saved one match point at the end, Barty put the match away on her next opportunity. Barty hit 14 winners, committed just seven unforced errors and was broken just once. She has won 18 consecutive sets dating back to her Roland Garros semifinal win over Amanda Anisimova.

“I kind of came into it thinking kind of like hakuna matata, just relax and go for it,” said Barty during her post-match press conference. Asked if she would stick around and watch her mercurial countryman Nick Kyrgios against Rafael Nadal, she smiled, and remarked. “I think we’ll be watching the cricket this afternoon.”

By advancing with her 40th win this year in all competitions, Barty has now equaled her career-best result at Wimbledon, which she achieved last year by reaching the third round. Barty is attempting to becoming the first Roland Garros champion to win a Wimbledon title in the same season since Justine Henin in 2007.

Next, Barty faces British wild card Harriet Dart. The 182nd-ranked Briton came on strong at the end – winning the final six games – and beat No. 121 qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-1 in two hours and 25 minutes on Court 12.

“There’s an element of danger against everyone you play,” said Barty with an eye toward facing Dart. “You have to make sure you know exactly how you want to play the match.”

Stephens celebrates Fourth of July victory

Like Barty, No. 9 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States won quickly and efficiently – in just 54 minutes – over Wang Yafan of China, 6-0, 6-2, on No. 3 Court to celebrate the American Fourth of July holiday. Stephens marched into the round of 32 at Wimbledon for the fifth time overall but just the first since 2016.

Stephens hit 19 winners, converted five of seven break points and won 28 of her 56 total points on Wang’s serve. It was the first time Stephens had faced Wang.

“Last night I had to watch a YouTube video to see how she plays,” Stephens said during an on-court interview after her win with ESPN. “I needed to see what I would be up against.

“This was a slow court and it helped me out a bit. I like slow surfaces, I like clay, slow hard courts. For me this was so slow, it was perfect.”

Stephens has yet to drop a set and has lost just eight games in two matches through the first two rounds. Asked what she’s doing best, she said, “I’m just playing my game, working on the things I can control. Obviously, grass isn’t my best surface. So, I came early and played Eastbourne to play some matches and just get ready for Wimbledon. I want to improve, I want to win at Wimbledon and do better and have the right mindset.”

Next, Stephens will play No. 19 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain, who advanced in 70 minutes over 38th-ranked Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4, in 71 minutes on Centre Court.

“I played a very tough opponent and I was very pleased that I was able to hold serve the way I did,” said Konta during her post-match interview. “Actually, in general, I thought I served quite well which definitely helped me because she’s quite tricky, her ball is very tricky. At any point, she could gain some momentum and start playing well. So, I’m pleased I came through that.”

Around the All England Club

• No. 4 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands came from a set down to beat No. 123 American Taylor Townsend, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, on Court 18, thanks to a solid performance that included 39 winners. Next, she will face 54th-ranked Czech Barbora Strycova, who took out Laura Siegemund of Germany, ranked 82nd, 6-3, 7-5, in two hours and 14 minutes on Court 17.

• No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic recovered from an early service break against 48th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France, then came on strong by winning the last four games of the first set en route to a 7-5, 6-2 win. Next, the Czech will face 75th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland, who upset No. 25 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States, 6-4, 7-5, on Court 12.

• No. 11 seed Serena Williams started slowly against 18-year-old qualifier Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, ranked No. 133, before pulling out a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory in one hour and 34 minutes on No. 1 Court. Among the spectators watching were the Duchess of Sussex, a close friend of Williams.

“I thought (Kaja) played well, she returned well,” said Williams in an interview with the BBC after her win. “I couldn’t even ace her throughout the match. I started out a little slow.”

Next, the 23-time Grand Slam champion who is in pursuit of an eighth Wimbledon singles crown, will face No. 18 seed Julia Goerges of Germany, whom she beat in last year’s semifinals. Goerges needed just 71 minutes to advance over No. 141 qualifier Varvara Flink of Russia, 6-1, 6-4.

• No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland advanced over 76th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, 6-3, 6-1, on Court 18. In the third round, she will oppose Alison Riske of the United States. The 55th-ranked American prevailed over 99th-ranked Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 9-7, in two hours and 50 minutes on Court 16. Jorovic recovered from down 2-5 in the final set to level it at 6-all before Riske came back to win three of the final four games of the second-round match. She finished with 48 winners and outpointed Jorovic 133-127.

• No. 15 seed Wang Qiang of China advanced to the third round with an easy 6-1, 6-2 win over 61st-ranked Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia on Court 17 by winning points on 100 percent (16 of 16) of her first serves. She broke Zidansek five times and outpointed her 60-30. Next, Wang will play No. 21 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, a 7-5, 6-9 winner over wild card Monica Niculescu of Romania, 7-5, 6-0. The Belgian, who finished with 30 winners, won the final 10 games of the one hour and 30 minute match on Court 15.

A few minutes with Coco Gauff

After American qualifier Cori “Coco” Gauff beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-3 on Wednesday to move into the third round of her first Wimbledon singles main draw, the down-to-earth 15-year-old from Delray Beach, Fla., sat down soon after her match to meet the media. Wearing a grey New Balance hoodie with black-and-white stripes running down each arm, the 313th-ranked Gauff patiently and enthusiastically answered a variety of questions. Among them:

• On being in the spotlight after beating Venus Williams: “So, I could lie and say I felt normal, but it was honestly so hard with social media and everything to focus on my next match because people are still posting about Venus. So, I just tried my best to reset. I think I went to bed about 12:30 a.m. I thought I would enjoy it, then it’s a new day tomorrow.”

• Was it difficult it was to get ready for her second-round match: “Yes, definitely it was. I wasn’t expecting any of this. A lot of celebrities were posting to me. I’m kind of starstruck. It’s been hard to reset.”

• How would you describe your last three days?: “The last three days have been very surprising. I’ve learned if you work really hard, you can get where you want to go. Last week around this time, I didn’t know I was coming here. So, it just shows you have to be ready for everything. I think everything happens for a reason. People are telling me to just keep working hard and good things will come.”

• Will your routine change now that you are further into the tournament. “Surprisingly, social media relaxes me. I like to watch YouTube videos before my matches. Right now, I’m just going to keep everything the same because it’s been working.”

• What kind of advice have you been getting from your coaches and your parents the last couple of days?: “They just told me ‘you have another match. It’s not over, so don’t focus too much on what’s just happened.’ My goal is to win it. … I think I’ve always done a good job of staying grounded.”

Looking ahead to the next round, where she will face Polona Hercog of Slovenia on Centre Court, Gauff said, “The more experience I get, the better choices I can make. I haven’t played that many matches at the top level. The little I’ve learned from juniors has definitely helped me a lot.”

By the numbers

After Victoria Azarenka beat Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2, 6-0 on Wednesday – winning the final 12 games of the match – to advance against Simona Halep in Friday’s third round, she went on to play doubles with Ashleigh Barty later in the day and built upon her success that began on the singles court. In all, Vika put together a remarkable 21-game winning run, that concluded with another nine straight games en route to a 6-0, 3-0 lead before their opponents, Lidziya Marozava and Storm Sanders finally won a game.

What they’re saying

Victoria Azarenka on the Serena Williams/Andy Murray mixed doubles partnership: “It’s going to be a tough, tough, tough one to beat. They both take it seriously. But I feel like it’s going to be a just a pleasure for people to watch. It’s going to be historic. So, I’ll be definitely watching, as well.”

(Note: Murray and Williams will play their first-round match against Andreas Mies of Germany and Alexa Guarachi of Chile on Friday not before 5:30 p.m. on a court to be arranged – likely Centre Court or No. 1 Court.)

Looking ahead

Third-round play begins Friday and includes No. 7 seed Simona Halep of Romania taking on 40th-ranked Victoria Azarenka in the second match on Centre Court from 1 p.m. It will be followed American teen sensation Cori “Coco” Gauff, ranked No. 313, against 60th-ranked Polona Hercog of Slovenia. No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic starts play on No. 1 Court against No. 28 seed Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan at 1 p.m. No. 8 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and No. 14 seed Caroline Wozniacki will also be in action.