Angelique Kerber survives Shelby Rogers scare to advance at Wimbledon
After all the talk that any of 40 women could land the title this year, the last 16 standing include six grand slam champions, a former world No1 and in Johanna Konta and Elina Svitolina, two players who may yet go on to achieve big things. If it is still difficult to pick a winner, the cream is coming to the top.
Included among them is the world No1, Angelique Kerber, who showed more grit and fighting spirit in her victory over Shelby Rogers than has been in evidence in recent months. The German trailed by a set and 4-2 before digging deep to produce a 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory that will do wonders for her confidence as she tries to go one better than last year, when she lost in the final to Serena Williams. “It was, for sure, a really important win for me today, especially because it was a really up-and-down match, and I was down 2-4 in the second set,” Kerber said. “I turned around the match.”
Kerber got to the top through her athleticism, astounding defence and tenacity, traits that have helped her to two grand slam titles. Being No1 has not sat easily on her shoulders and unless she at least makes the final, she will be knocked off top spot. But she may have rediscovered her belief. Having been outgunned by the big hitting of Rogers, the world No 79 who has made a habit of upsetting star names in grand slams over the past couple of years, she drew on her experience in big matches and found a way. From the moment she broke back for 4-4 in the second set, the 29-year-old looked a different player and, after taking the tie-break 7-2, she eased through the third to set up a clash with the 2015 runner-up, Garbiñe Muguruza.
“Maybe it is a turnaround,” said Kerber. “We will see. I am really trying to go out there not thinking too much. At the beginning [when you are No1], you have a little bit more things in your mind. It’s a little bit different because you feel more pressure and more expectation from everybody around, but also from yourself. You need time, you need experience, you need a few ups and downs in your career to know how it is and to be in this position.”
Muguruza lost to Williams in the final here two years ago. The Spaniard won her first grand slam title in 2016, just like Kerber, when she beat the American at Roland Garros. Since then, the 23-year-old has been up and down, but when she survives the first few rounds she is hugely dangerous. “Every time I start the grass season, I’m like: ‘How the hell did I [make] that final?’,” she said after a dominant 6-2, 6-2 win over Sorana Cirstea of Romania. “[But] the experience I have now playing matches helps me.”
It will be the eighth meeting between Kerber and Muguruza, with the Spaniard leading 4-3. Kerber knows she needs to be aggressive but Muguruza, who won when they met here two years ago, says the result will depend largely on how she plays herself. “Like always, I think I have to concentrate on my game,” she said. “I think if I take care of me, my stuff, I feel I can hurt a lot of players. Maybe she’s one of them. It’s [been] a long time that I didn’t play against her. I look forward to it. I love this kind of match.”
It was a day of comebacks with Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, perhaps the two best players not to have won a grand slam title, both coming from a set down to make the last 16. Radwanska, the ninth seed, who saved two match points in the previous round, beat the 19th seed, Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The 2012 runner-up will play Svetlana Kuznetsova, the seventh seed, in the fourth round.
The former world No1, Wozniacki, was two points from defeat against Anett Kontaveit when she trailed by a set and 5-4, 30-0 on the Estonian’s serve. But the Dane held firm and her 21-year-old opponent buckled to give Wozniacki a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory. She next meets Coco Vandeweghe after the 24th seed hammered fellow American Alison Riske 6-2, 6-4.
Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia followed up her shock win over the third seed Karolina Pliskova by beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-2, 6-1 to reach the fourth round for the first time. The 28-year-old’s reward will be a clash with another unseeded player, Petra Martic of Croatia, who beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-6 (6), 6-1.
With Venus Williams, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka all lurking in the bottom half, not to mention Konta and Svitolina, whoever comes through to take the title will have earned it.