American women stole the spotlight on Friday at Wimbledon where three advanced into the fourth round, including setting the date for an all-Williams match-up, and two Americans came up just short of upsets.
World No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 16 seed Venus Williams lined-up a fourth round meeting after Serena was forced to work hard to get by British No. 1 Heather Watson 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, and Venus topped Serb Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, 6-2.
Serena needed three match points to close out Watson, and looked like she might burst into tears at the stress of two hours and 14 minutes on court in front of the pro-Watson crowd.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to win,” Serena said. “I was thinking I would be hanging around to watch Venus play. I couldn’t keep up with her…I should have won the second set and I didn’t. This was a match I think I would have lost last year or the year before. Mentally I’m stronger now. The older I get, the tougher I get upstairs. But I don’t think I’ve ever played the crowd here like that. They were really vocal — in between points, during points…I’ve never heard boos here, that was new for me. They were rooting for their champion. You can’t blame them — I would be too.”
Venus said, as her sister did, that it will be good to have a Williams sister in the quarterfinals, but neither sister would admit it would rather be them.
“It’s nice to be in the second week,” Venus said. “Well, we both know we’ll be playing well.”
Serena said Venus, of the two of them, is more on her game at the moment, tipping the older sister in the battle of five-time Wimbledon champs.
“Venus is in better form than I am, but at least one of us will be in the quarterfinals,” Serena said. “I’m in awe of her in practice right now. Worst-case scenario I don’t do well, I’ll just keep trying to move forward. She’s the toughest player I’ve ever played. But she’s my sister today, my sister next week, next year. That’s more important than the match. We’ll leave everything out on the court and when it’s done, go back to regular life.”
The third American winner into the fourth round on Friday was unseeded CoCo Vandeweghe, who hit a nervous No. 22 seed Samantha Stosur off the court 6-2, 6-0.
Vandeweghe will next meet Safarova.
“I kind of expected it would be like this whole crazy elation or something like that but I’m pretty calm about it,” the unseeded American said of upsetting Stosur, beating the Aussie for the third consecutive time, and moving into the fourth round. “Just going through my routine and sticking with that on and off the court and I think that’s what has kept me settled.”
Another upset winner was Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas topping No. 14 Andrea Petkovic 7-5, 6-4.
Other seeded victors were No. 4 Maria Sharapova handling No. 29 Irina Begu 6-4, 6-3; No. 6 Lucie Safarova coming from a set down to defeat American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-3, 6-1; No. 23 Victoria Azarenka continuing her quiet ascent with a 6-4, 6-4 win over France’s Kristina Mladenovic; and No. 30 Belinda Bencic edging Americna qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 7-5.
Bencic fought back from 1-5 to take the opening set 7-5 against Mattek-Sands.
“I think the key was that I was getting more rhythm,” Bencic said. “In the first set I was definitely thinking too much about her game and her always coming to the net and me panicking when she does it. I think I calmed down a little bit and I focused on my game and tried just to put the ball in the court and to make a rally and not to think what I will do when she attacks.”
On the men’s side world No. 1 Novak Djokovic kept on rolling, moving into the fourth round and yet to drop a set at this year’s Wimbledon with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 dismantling of Australian No. 27 seed Bernard Tomic.
“There is nothing specifically I’ve been working on,” said Djokovic of his seemingly-impervious weaponry. “Just every stroke in my game is getting better each match. That is something that is obviously very encouraging to see…I have two days [off]. I’m going to work on the court, get myself recovered and ready for a challenge that is presented in the second week.”
The second week will start for the Serb with No. 14 Kevin Anderson, who was efficient in dismissing No. 24 seed Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-3,
No. 4 Stan Wawrinka was the other lone Top 10-seeded player in action, taking out the big-hitting Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, to set up a meeting with No. 16 David Goffin, who defeated Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
In his post-match conference Stan broke down the importance of winning matches in order to advance.
“In Grand Slams, you have to win, and to win in three sets, it’s great,” the Swiss said. “Playing better and better. Serving really well since the beginning of the tournament, being really aggressive. Start to feel more comfortable for moving and in defence also.”
On Monday two upset winners will face each other after turning the tables on higher-ranked opponents Friday as No. 21 Richard Gasquet handled No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, and the flamboyant No. 26 seed Nick Kyrgios took out giant-serving No. 7 seed Milos Raonic from a set down 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-3.
“I think it’s important to play entertaining tennis,” said Kyrgios, who let out a giant scream upon clinching match point. “When I’m in that state of mind, when I’m relaxed and playing around, I think that’s when I play my best. I’m focusing but at the same time I’m having fun. I thought I did that in the second, third and fourth sets. I feel you should express yourself, it’s a sport.”
Dimitrov failed to convert on any of five break point opportunities against Gasquet.
“I had too many opportunities early on in the first set to get back the break,” the Bulgarian said. “Then, I think, second set was also pretty close. I had chances…Just right now, things are not going the way I want to. The thing is also you don’t need to get too down on yourself and start digging to try to find something that is actually not there.”
American wildcard Denis Kudla kept his roll on with a five-set 6-2, 6-7(3), 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 grinding win over Santiago Giraldo. He will enjoy two days rest starting tonight while waiting to see his opponent determined on Saturday as Marin Cilic and John Isner had their match halted due to darkness at 10-10 in the fifth set.
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