LONDON – A day after Manic Monday, the women were back in action at Wimbledon as all four quarterfinals were completed in a single, tidy four-hour session. Here are five takeaways from the four matches…plus a bonus one on the match between Juan Martin del Potro and Gilles Simon, which wrapped up today.
• Serena Williams played in her 48th Grand Slam quarterfinal today. Camila Giorgi played in her first. Inasmuch as this was the biggest match of Giorgi’s career, she did not play like it early, betraying no nerves, deploying her usual high-risk-high-reward style and winning the first set 6-3. And then it was Serena Time. Williams committed just four unforced errors in the second set, winning 6-3. It was more the same in the third and she prevailed 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. In a tournament marked by top players failing to meet the moment, 25th-seeded Serena is the opposite: when the match tightens, she plays better. It’s one of many reasons she’s a 23-time Grand Slam champion.
Her reward: she is—at almost 37 years old, a mother, a year and a half removed from her last Slam title— two matches away from the 24th major of her unrivaled career. This is a sporting treasure.
• Angelique Kerber and Daria Kasatkina are only three spots apart in the seedings (11 versus 14) but they are almost a decade apart in age (30 versus 21). Experience was the difference today as Kerber—more familiar with Centre Court, more familiar with playing back-to-back days, more poised to deal with the seven consecutive service breaks—eeked and squeaked out a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Kasatkina is a player in ascent and great fun to watch. But this was Kerber’s day. Having won 29 matches in all of her forgettable 2016, Kerber has now won 37 in 2018. And now she’s two wins away from her third Slam.
• When Jelena Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open as an unseeded player, the tennis salon was split. Was this the birth of a star? Or the birth of a one-hit wonder who got hot for seven matches? We now have enough data points to confirm the former. Ostapenko, who just turned 21 and seeded 12th, is back in a Slam semi, having beaten Dominika Cibulkova today, 7-5, 6-4. Ostapenko won fully half of her return points and, befitting a player not hurting for self-confidence, rose when the occasion called for it. She gets Kerber next.
• No. 13 Julia Goerges, 29, played in her first major quarterfinal this afternoon and made the most of it, beating No. 20 Kiki Bertens 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. It’s an impressive win for the German, as Bertens had taken out back-to-back top-10 seeds and former world No. 1s in Venus Williams and Karolina Pliskova. Goerges is now tasked with one of the most difficult tasks in the women’s game: beating an in-form Serena Williams on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
• The rash of upsets—repeat: ZERO top-10 seeds were in action today—opened the draw for Serena. But they also helped Serena by illustrating a more abstract point: There is a delicacy to being a top player. If you are 10% off your game or you can’t close or you fail to fight through injury… you don’t win. It’s that simple. Serena repeatedly gets to the business end of a Major, and she does so almost devotionally. These upsets remind us how remarkable that consistency is, despite all the obstacles.
• Bonus: Here’s a stat you don’t often see: Juan Martin del Potro and Gilles Simon played the longest singles match of tournament—4:23— and it didn’t even go five sets. No. 5 del Potro was up two sets to one when play was halted due to darkness on Monday night. The two returned today, and the Argentine needed a tiebreaker (and five match points) but eventually closed out the match 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5). Nadal is next tomorrow. They played in the French Open last month—Nadal won in straight sets, and del Potro won seven games total. Should be a much closer affair tomorrow.