Wimbledon Daily Dispatch: Nadal Rolls Through Tsonga Into Second Week,
Serena Rounding Into Form After Goerges Win,
Doubles Victory With Murray
By Thomas Cluck
(July 6, 2019) It was the final chance to see the sport’s biggest stars, and their final test to reach the second week, before the dormant Middle Sunday came and the madness of Manic Monday ensued. The greats of the game, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray, ensured we’ll be seeing more of them in week two at Wimbledon.
Entering Centre Court for his second straight dangerous early-round matchup of the tournament after surviving a blockbuster grudge match with the unpredictable Nick Kyrgios, third seed and two-time champion Rafael Nadal romped the powerful and flamboyant Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to send a statement to the remaining 15 players in the men’s draw to watch out come week two.
“Tsonga is someone you don’t want to face in the third round at Wimbledon. Every single day is a battle here. It’s not a surface I play a lot of matches on during the year,” said Nadal.
“It’s important that after the tough draw I was able to find a way to be in the second week.”
Nadal, who reached the semifinals here in London last year and narrowly missed out on a golden chance for another title at the All England Club with a heartbreaking loss to eventual winner Novak Djokovic, survived two of his toughest tests early in the tournament and is playing with a vengeance on the slower-than-usual grass courts this year, serving dominantly and bludgeoning both his forehand and backhand wings with authority.
“I think I played a great match. I was returning well, playing aggressively with the forehand and the backhand. I think I did a lot of things well,” commented the Spaniard.
“I played a solid match. I played a good quality of tennis. Honestly I felt very comfortable this afternoon out there.”
“I did a lot of times serve on one ball. I did a lot of things well. That’s why the numbers are positive,” added Nadal. “I was very happy. I played a great match from the beginning to the end.”
Against an unusually flat and lifeless Tsonga, a former semifinalist in SW19, Nadal took advantage and pounced all over. Losing just ten points on his serve and never facing a break point, Nadal showed his best tennis of the tournament and left Tsonga dejected and unable to respond, even matching the big serve of the Frenchman in aces, each with 11.
“I didn’t face a break point. That’s because my serve worked well. I have been playing aggressive, with not many mistakes and being very precise,” explained the former No. 1.
After surviving big-serving, big-hitting, unpredictable opponents in Kyrgios and Tsonga, two of the most powerful and dangerous opponents on tour, Nadal can now relax, just a little, ahead of his round of 16 battle on Monday with Portugal’s Joao Sousa, who overcame British home hope Dan Evans in five sets on No. 1 Court to close play Saturday.
“To be in the fourth round, any player [is] going to be tough. I need to be playing like today or a little bit better if possible,” concluded Nadal.
Another player rounding into impressive, title-contending form is seven-time champion Serena Williams, who did double duty today, starting out with an impressive straight-sets win over big-hitting German Julia Goerges, a rematch of their semifinal here last year.
Once again serving bigger and hitting harder than her 18th-seeded opponent, Williams won again in comfortable fashion 6-3, 6-4 out on No. 1 Court.
“It’s been an arduous year for me,” said Williams in her post-match interview. “Every match, I’m hoping to improve tons. Every time I go out there I try. I’m getting a really late start but all that matters is I’m still here.”
Looking much sharper and intense from the first ball today in her third-round match, Williams showed a big step up in form from two uninspiring wins in her opening round matches. Today, against a quality opponent in Goerges, Serena looked the part of a legitimate title contender.
“I play pretty good when I’m calm, but also super-intense, just finding the balance in between there,” commented Williams. “So it’s a hard balance to find, because sometimes when I’m too calm, I don’t have enough energy. Still trying to find that balance.”
“I just need to keep it up. Each match for me really counts.”
Serena made it two wins for two matches in her Saturday double duty, joining forces with two-time singles champion Andy Murray, the home hero, in one of the most highly-anticipated mixed doubles pairings in tennis history to get their campaign going with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over the unheralded team of Andreas Mies and Alexa Guarachi.
“I wanted to play mixed because I’ve played just about 15 matches so far this year so I thought it could really help me,” explained Williams.
In front of an enthralled Centre Court crowd, Murray and Williams put on a show, slowly finding their form as a team before rolling through the second set and into the next round.
“It worked out well. We’ve never played together, so it’s always a learning curve,” said Williams. We take it very serious, so that’s why we’re in it.”
“Andy and I both love the competition. I know we both want to do well.”
Asked for his thoughts on the match, Murray assessed “I think toward the end of the match, when you’re kind of in control on the scoreboard, it’s easier to sort of relax and enjoy it. Whereas the first set, we were obviously taking it seriously to win. Had a bunch of chances, didn’t get them.”
“It’s a good start. I thought we returned well and served well.”
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) July 6, 2019
Asked who’s the boss in the partnership, Serena joked “We’re a team. There’s no ‘I’ in team.”
“We were saying before the match, we’re both the younger sibling, so we’re used to being bossed by our older brother and sister. So we’re sort of taking turns, I guess,” added Murray.
Murray, still returning from hip resurfacing surgery earlier in the year, won the men’s doubles title at the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club a few weeks prior, but fell in his men’s doubles second round today with Pierre-Hugues Herbert to the sixth-seeded team of Nicola Mektic and Franko Skugor 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 out on No. 2 Court.
“I lost in the doubles earlier so all the energy is focused on the mixed,” said Murray.
There was more delight for the home fans on Saturday as British women’s number one Johanna Konta, a semifinalist here in 2017, took out American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, just as she did last month at the French Open to reach the last four.
After an impressive opening set from the ninth-seeded Stephens, Konta began to take charge and dictate play, turning the match around like she had in her three prior wins over the American- all three earlier wins this year.
“I just kept plugging away, more than anything. She was playing incredibly well and I was fully prepared to not be coming back in that second set,” said Konta. “I was really pleased I could keep battling, I was pleased I could mix things up and I did a good job in getting her out of that zone.”
“It was incredibly tough. She’s an incredibly good player and at her best she’s very, very tough to play. I really had to work hard to find a way into that match and get my level up to hers. I’m really pleased I could do that and keep the pressure on. I’m really pleased with the tennis I’m playing.”
“I don’t think anyone can go on court against me feeling sure it’s a done deal,” assessed Konta.
Eight-time champion Roger Federer booked his spot in the second week but showed he’s still got more room to improve with a sometimes up-and-down 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 win over Frenchman Lucas Pouille, the 27th seed.
“It was tough. But I’m happy that I’m able to raise my level of play,” said Federer. “There was a great run of games midway through the second, also after winning the first. I like seeing moments like that in a match for me.”
“For me, I’m very happy how it’s going so far. I hope it’s going to take a special performance from somebody to stop me, not just a mediocre performance.”
Federer will face the in-form Italian Matteo Berrettini, who won a grass-court title in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, on Monday in the round of 16. Berrettini survived a five-set epic with Argentine Diego Schwartzman on Court 18, taking over four hours to earn the victory.
“I don’t know him very well, so that makes it a bit more tricky,” commented Federer. “I saw him play a little bit in Halle. Saw his run, of course, in Stuttgart. Now he’s backing it up here again. That’s not easy to do, especially when you’re sort of newer on the tour.”
“Yeah, I’m expecting a tough one. I hope he has no energy left after today. I’m sure he’ll recover. He’s young. I’m sure we’ll see a tough match on Monday I guess it is,” concluded the Swiss legend.
Americans had an up and down day six at The Championships on Saturday, with Steve Johnson bowing out in straight sets to Kei Nishikori, while former semifinalist Sam Querrey and Tennys Sandgren set an all-American fourth rounder for Monday after Querrey took out John Millman 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 and Sandgren knocked out mercurial Italian Fabio Fognini, the 12th seed, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.
The two American men will battle for the title of last American standing at Wimbledon, with the winner getting a spot in the quarterfinals.
“If three months ago you were like, ‘Oh, two American men will play in the second week of a Slam,’ you probably wouldn’t have said, ‘Querrey-Sandgren.’ It’s exciting. You’ve got one guy in the quarters,” said Querrey.
“At least there will be one in the quarters, for sure, which is cool. I like that. I like the fact that there will be one guy pushing forward and looking to make an even farther run,” added Sandgren.
There was more good news for Americans early on Saturday as grass-court specialist Alison Riske kept her run going, edging out the number 13 seed Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to secure a second week spot.
Riske won’t have it easy at all there, facing the world number one and reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, who continued her demolition tour on young Brit Harriet Dart, winning 6-1, 6-1 in 53 minutes, her second consecutive singles win in under an hour.
Also advancing today on the women’s side was two-time champion Petra Kvitova, flying under the radar here after being billed as the favorite the last two years, showing no ill effects from the forearm injury that forced her to withdraw from Roland Garros, defeating Poland’s Magda Linette 6-3, 6-2.
The Czechs had a good day beyond Kvitova’s win, with tricky veteran Barbora Strycova knocking out the four seed Kiki Bertens 7-5, 6-1.