Manic Monday at Wimbledon proved true to its moniker with Garbine Muguruza sending World No 1 Angelique Kerber out of the Championships in a well-contested match on Court 2 after the placement of the match on the third choice court raised some eyebrows. With Serena Williams out, Kerber was looking to go one better than her final finish last year and retain her World No 1 ranking by doing better than her competitors. But as things panned out, Muguruza was the better of the two women especially in the closing stages to make all the difference. The defeat denied Kerber a chance at winning her first title of the year and to improve on her 0-4 current record against the Spaniard who had reached the Wimbledon final in 2015. It also extended the German’s dismal record against the top-20 players with her ninth straight defeat.
With the defeat, Simona Halep is a strong contender to take over as the World No 1 player after the Romanian got the better of Victoria Azarenka 7-6, 6-2 who is on the comeback trail. Halep needs one more win, against Johanna Konta of Britain, to reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon and take the World No 1 title. Should she fail, Karolina Pliskova – who is already out of the tournament – will take over at the top.
The irony of the entire soiree remains that it was Kerber’s best showing in some time and yet she came out with a defeat and heading out of the tournament – a tournament where she has historically done well. “I think we both played a good match but in the end I think it was just two points that decided the match,” said Kerber. “Of course I’m disappointed that I lost the match, because I was really playing good.”
In an even match, Kerber broke Muguruza to take 5-4 lead after the Spaniard hit her shot wide from a lengthy rally. The German got the job done with a smash into open court to take the first set 6-4.
The second set remained on serve until Kerber, who was serving at 4-5, was undone by Muguruza’s sharp play at the net as she smacked a beautifully forehand drive for a winner. In the second set, Muguruza had saved three break points to keep things even between the two players.
The third set proved to be a battle of nerves and stamina with what was riding on the contest and the heat played an important role as an added factor. Kerber broke Muguruza in the very first game and then consolidated the break to lead 2-0 but the Spaniard came back to level matters at 3-3.
The seventh game proved to be a crucial one as it lasted for ten minutes with Muguruza finally holding serve and the crowd appreciated the effort by both players with enthusiastic cheers after each point. “That definitely was an important game,” said Muguruza. “I fight. She was fighting. Every point was incredible. I was expecting that though, I was ready to face that situation.”
Two games later, Kerber saved two match points but Muguruza grabbed the third to book her place in the last eight. The tension in the air was palpable as Muguruza’s temporary coach and the Wimbledon champion in 1994, Conchita Martinez, could hardly stay still. She will next face Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova who beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-4.
Playing on Center Court to open play on the main show court, Venus Williams didn’t waste much time as she bulldozed past 19-year-old Croatian Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-2 in 64 minutes. The win maintained Venus’ unbeaten record against teenagers that goes back over a decade. The difference in their age difference can be ascertained with the fact that Venus made her Grand Slam debut at the 1997 French Open, seven months before Konjuh was even born. And at 37 years and 29 days, Venus is Wimbledon’s oldest female quarter-finalist since Martina Navratilova in 1994.
Over on Court 2, Halep got the better of Azarenka with the Belarussian seeing her game disintegrate in the second set early on and despite a late surge, the damage was done and the dream for a fairytale comeback left incomplete. Azarenka had made her comeback in Mallorca and was playing just the second tournament since giving birth to her son Leo in December. She out-hit and out-thought Azarenka who had looked out of sorts in the second set.
Azarenka led the first set twice with breaks of serves but both times Halep came back to level matters and the two players headed to the tiebreak to find the difference maker. Her drop in form began in the tiebreak which she lost 7-3 and then the next five games.
She came back to break Halep once and saved multiple match points but it wasn’t enough in the end despite her late glorious groundstrokes. Eventually, a backhand winner attempt sailed narrowly wide and gave Halep the win.
Halep will take on Johanna Konta who created history by becoming the first British woman to reach the quarters of Wimbledon since Jo Durie in 1984. She outclassed Caroline Garcia of France 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 in the fourth round while playing on Court 1. The historic occasion an impressive one considering Konta had previously won only one match in five appearances at the All England Club. With the women’s draw wide open, she could become the first home champion since Virginia Wade 40 years ago.
“It was such a tough match to play, she is in impressive form, it’s hard to get any rhythm when she’s serving so well and gets her first strike in,” Konta said. “I was happy that I was able to get enough returns in that final game. When I was a little girl, and even now, I dreamt of being in these battles and on the big stages.”
Konta was always the better of the two players in the opening set and despite taking it in the tiebreak, one amazing reaction forehand return to a Garcia smash brought out roaring appreciation from the crowd on a sun covered crowd. The Briton who remains calm and steady on court, didn’t let the rise and drop in her game and of the momentum, get to her.
She has spoken of being in a bubble and staying calm irrespective of how things are going in her match and that was proven true when she lost five games in a row en route to Garcia taking the second set.
Women’s Singles QF: Garbine Muguruza vs Svetlana Kuznetsova, Magdalena Rybarikova vs CoCo Vandeweghe, Venus Williams vs Jelena Ostapenko, Johanna Konta vs Simona Halep.