LONDON, July 6, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty celebrated her status as this year’s top seed in the ladies’ singles at the Wimbledon Championships by finally playing her first Centre Court match as the British fortnight reached the half-way point on Saturday.
With Hall of Fame greats and former Wimbledon champions Billie Jean King (six singles titles and 20 titles overall), Martina Navratilova (nine singles and 20 overall) and Rod Laver (four singles and five overall) looking on from the Royal Box, Barty made quick work of British wild card Harriet Dart and won her 15th consecutive match, 6-1, 6-1. The latest rendition of the Barty Party lasted just 53 minutes, but, oh, what a delight it was!
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) 6. Juli 2019
“It’s the most beautiful court in the world, isn’t it? I promised myself when I walked out there that I’d smile and try and take it all in. And it changed a little bit since I played on there with Casey (Dellacqua) a few years ago now,” said Barty, 23, describing the euphoric feeling of playing on Centre Court.
“I think having played on that court now, I know what it’s like. It’s not too dissimilar to what I expected from a pace of court and things like that, but obviously the surroundings are a little bit different. Now having a taste of that, it’s nice to know what it’s like.”
The Aussie wrapped up her third-round victory with 23 winners, including 11 service aces, against just six unforced errors. Also, she converted all five of her break-point opportunities against the overmatched, 22-year-old Dart, who came into Wimbledon ranked No. 182.
“I think the best thing is that I didn’t let up the whole match. I kept the foot down and I was able to stay in control of most games,” said Barty. “Particularly early on in games, getting those first couple points.
“I think it’s nice to know that I can go in and execute and get my job done.”
In Monday’s round of 16, Barty will be opposed by 29-year-old Alison Riske. The 55th-ranked American pulled through her third-round skirmish with a defiant 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 triumph over No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland on Court 12 after being down 0-3 in the final set. Their battle lasted two hours and nine minutes, and the outcome gave Riske a bit of revenge after losing to Bencic a year ago at SW19 in which she squandered four match points.
Riske came into this year’s Wimbledon with grass-court titles won in Surbiton and s-Hertogenbosch, plus she survived a couple of lengthy early-round encounters, against No. 22 seed Donna Vekic (2:29) and 99th-ranked Ivana Jorovic (2:50). Meanwhile, Bencic had been solid in dropping just nine games while compiling wins over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Kaia Kanepi. Now, after beating Bencic, Riske will play in the Wimbledon round of 16 for the first time.
Goerges brings out best in Williams
If Serena Williams’ first two matches could be characterized by tentative and uneven play, the 23-time Grand Slam champion broke out of her slump just in time with a solid performance against No. 18 seed Julia Goerges of Germany on No. 1 Court. The seven-time Wimbledon champion from the United States won convincingly, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 12 minutes, in a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon semifinals. It advanced Williams into the second week of Wimbledon for the 15th time in her storied career.
Different year, same result…
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) 6. Juli 2019
“I think I play pretty good when I’m calm, but also super intense, just finding the balance in between there,” said Williams, who hit 19 winners, faced no break points and outpointed Goerges 64-51. “So it’s a hard balance to find because sometimes when I’m too calm, I don’t have enough energy. Still trying to find that balance.”
Williams extended her career win-loss record against Goerges to 5-0, and she’s captured all 10 sets played against the German.
“I just need to keep it up,” Williams said before returning to play mixed doubles with Andy Murray on Centre Court against Andreas Mies of Germany and Alexa Guarachi of Chile. Williams and Murray prevailed in their very first match together, 6-4, 6-1, in one hour and 16 minutes. “Each match for me really counts. I haven’t had a tremendous amount. Literally each match counts for me. It’s just keep going, doing what I’m doing in practice hopefully.”
Next, Williams will face No. 30 seed Carla Suárez Navarro. The Spaniard took out 95th-ranked American lucky loser Lauren Davis, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and eight minutes on Court 16.
Kvitova reaches second week for sixth time
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova quietly but efficiently secured her berth in the second week for the sixth time with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 75th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland in just 69 minutes on No. 2 Court. The victory improved the World No. 6 Kvitova’s 2019 win-loss record to 32-9.
The sixth-seeded Kvitova from the Czech Republic took advantage of a couple of early service breaks in each set that allowed her to pull away from Linette. She hit four service aces, won 81 percent (29 of 36) of her first-serve points and broke Linette, the Polish No. 2, three times while not surrendering any break points on her own serve. Kvitova finished with 23 winners against just 15 unforced errors.
“I think I played the best tennis here today,” said Kvitova during her news conference. “I think that she played great game as well. She was serving much better than I was expecting actually, so it was really difficult.
“I think I played pretty aggressive. It was kind of the key of it. I moved pretty well, as well. From the first point, I felt great.”
Although it was Linette’s best showing in five tries at the All England Club, which included a second-round win over No. 25 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States on Thursday, she was no match for Kvitova, who is one of only two former ladies’ singles champions remaining in draw as play heads toward next week’s fourth round. After losing in the first round of Wimbledon last year, Kvitova has looked solid in each of her three wins during the current fortnight.
Konta beats Stephens for fourth time in 2019
Next, Kvitova will face No. 19 seed Johanna Konta, who rose to the occasion of playing on No. 1 Court and beat No. 9 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States for the fourth time this year. After dropping the first set, the British No. 1 broke Stephens to go ahead 5-4 in the middle set, then captured eight of the final nine games of their two hour and two minute match to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Konta, a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist, came into the match 3-0 against Stephens – including a quarterfinal win last month at Roland Garros. While Konta has carried the weight of Great Britain on her shoulders – going 20 service games without being broken during her first two wins (both in straight sets) – against Stephens, she struggled early on in the opening set, then came on strong in the end when it mattered most.
Statistically, Konta was solid. She finished with seven service aces against just one double fault, won 65 percent (39 of 60) of her points on her first serve and backed it with a 67 percent efficiency (18 of 27) on her second serve. The Briton controlled play at the net by winning 15 of 21 opportunities. Konta broke Stephens, whose best result at Wimbledon was reaching the 2013 quarterfinals, three times and connected on 25 winners. She outpointed the American 91-81.
“I kept plugging away at it more than anything,” said Konta during a post-match interview with the BBC. “She was playing incredibly well. I was fully prepared to be not coming back after that second set because she really was playing well. I’m just really pleased I was able to keep battling, finding a way. I thought I did a good job in mixing things up and getting her out of that zone because she was really in it.”
Strycova upsets No. 4 seed Bertens
Playing in her 16th Wimbledon, 54th-ranked Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic has reached the second week for only the second time in her career. Her confidence, which comes from being one of the best doubles players in the world (currently ranked No. 3), paid off nicely against No. 4 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, whom she beat 7-5, 6-1 in one hour and 36 minutes on No. 3 Court.
Although Bertens saved 11 of 15 break points, she was ultimately done in by her 29 unforced errors and Strycova’s ability to win points consistently on her first serve (32 of 40). Playing determined tennis, the 33-year-old Strycova won the final five games of the match to advance against No. 21 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium. The Belgian needed two hours and 49 minutes to eliminate No. 15 seed Wang Qiang of China, 6-2, 6-7 (9), 6-4, in which she wrapped up the victory by striking 38 winners and taking four of the final five games.
By the numbers
• At 5-feet-5-inches (1.66 meters), World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty is the shortest player in the WTA Top 20.
• There are 10 women’s seeds from the original 32 remaining in this year’s Wimbledon, including five of the Top 10 – No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, No. 6 Petra Kvitova, No. 7 Simona Halep and No. 8 Elina Svitolina. Other seeds remaining include: No. 11 Serena Williams, No. 19 Johanna Konta, No. 21 Elise Mertens, No. 24 Petra Martic, and No. 30 Carla Suárez Navarro.
What they’re saying
• Cori “Coco” Gauff, the 15-year-old American sensation, on if there was a “wow” moment walking out on Centre Court for her third-round match on Friday: “When I was walking on the court, I kind of wasn’t nervous, but I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really on Centre Court. One of the most sacred courts in the world.’ … When I was down 5-2, I was just like, ‘I can fight back. Just need to hold serve, break, then we’ll see what happens from there.’”
More Coco: On what she was thinking on match point Friday night against Polona Hercog, seeing the ball go over her head: “Well, when it was going overhead, I was like, ‘Please go out, please.’ Then, after when I was jumping, I was like ‘Wow. I can’t believe it. It’s been one long match, it’s finally over.’”
• Simona Halep on if players thought of as a clay-courters can translate that to the Wimbledon grass and push for the title: “I think everyone is able now in this moment to make the transition easy and winning (the) tournament. We cannot say that some players are playing well only on clay and some only on grass or hard. I think now the players are working hard. They feel good on all the surfaces.
“About myself, I can say I have a chance everywhere I play. I have just to fight, have the desire to win every match I play.”