China’s Li Na was the toast of the women’s tour after winning the Australian Open, nicked by some to even challenge world No. 1 Serena Williams in the rankings and roll up the Grand Slam titles.
Oh what a difference a month can make.
Roughly one month after losing in the first round at Roland Garros, the No. 2-seeded Na added an early Wimbledon exit on Friday, falling 7-6(5), 7-6(5) to unseeded Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
“I think I [made the] wrong decision,” said Na of skipping the two weeks of WTA grasscourt tournaments leading to the All England Club. “I need to play some matches before [Wimbledon].”
Top 10-seeded winners into the round of 16 on Friday were No. 3 Simona Halep who defeated the Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-4; No. 4 Aggie Radwanska who rolled over Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2, 6-0; and No. 6 Petra Kvitova who outlasted No. 30 Venus Williams 5-7, 7-6(2), 7-5.
“This is the best match I have played on grass since I won the title,” said Kvitova of the 2-1/2 hour encounter with Venus. “She’s a huge player, a big champion, and she’s doing a good job of coming back. We all have to respect her. I don’t think I was the better player the whole way through this match…I was just a little stronger than her mentally. That’s why I won.”
In the final game the elder Williams sister was undone by unforced errors.
“She played well at every single moment,” Williams said. “I gave it my all. Sometimes it’s not enough. It’s a shame there had to be a loser and more of a shame that it had to be me. This was a great match for me. But the battle is always more enjoyable when you win. I’m still in the doubles. That’s what is on my mind now.”
Former No. 1 and No. 16 seed Caroline Wozniacki was another seeded winner easing into the round of 16 after blistering Croat teen Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-0. She was joined by seeds No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova who subdued French comer Caroline Garcia, and No. 23 Lucie Safarova who defeated No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova, both in straight sets.
Other unseeded players into the round of 16 were China’s Peng Shuai who came back from a first set bagel to defeat American Lauren Davis, Swiss Belinda Bencic who topped American qualifier Vicky Duval, and 19-year-old Czech qualifier Tereza Smitkova, who had only one tour-level win entering Wimbledon, edging Bojana Jovanovski 10-8 in the third.
Highlights of Saturday play include (5) Maria Sharapova vs. Alison Riske, (1) Serena Williams vs. (25) Alize Cornet, (11) Ana Ivanovic vs. (19) Sabine Lisicki, (3) Simona Halep vs. Belinda Bencic, (20) Andrea Petkovic vs. (13) Eugenie Bouchard, (9) Angelique Kerber vs. (24) Kirsten Flipkens, and out on Court 17, Madison Keys vs. Yaroslava Shvedova.
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