Wimbledon Daily Dispatch: Manic Monday Sees Major Women’s Upsets As Barty, Pliskova Crash Out, Halep Ends Gauff Fairytale, Williams, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic Cruise
By Thomas Cluck
(July 8, 2019) The calm of Middle Sunday, the day of rest, at Wimbledon had passed and given way to the frenzy of fourth-round battles on day six that is lovingly known as Manic Monday to tennis fans. But on this 2019 Manic Monday, there was some mayhem and madness in the air of the All England Club.
Opening Manic Monday proceedings on No. 2 Court early today, reigning Roland Garros winner and newly-crowned world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty was upset in three sets by unseeded American Alison Riske, a grass-court specialist in her own right, losing out to the 29 year-old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 37 minutes on court.
“I’m so incredibly excited, said Riske.The fact that it’s at Wimbledon, my favorite Grand Slam, the place that I had always dreamed to be in the last eight club of… they can’t kick me out now, I’m here to stay! I am just over the moon, so happy.”
“I think I started well, I was sticking to how I wanted to play,” said Barty. “Then in the second set, I think my serve let me down. I let Alison get back into the match too many times, having looks at second serves.”
“Overall I didn’t play a poor match. When I needed to, when the big moments were there, Alison played better today. Tough one to swallow but I lost to a better player,” summed the Australian.
“It’s disappointing right now. Give me an hour or so, we’ll be all good. The sun’s still going to come up tomorrow. It’s been an incredible few months. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve,” commented Barty.
“I’m so thrilled. I think honestly the biggest key for me has just been to battle from start to finish of every match that I’ve been a part of. Judging by the scoreline, they haven’t all gone perfect,” explained Riske.
“I feel like I’ve been there in every moment, looking to impose myself. I’m really most proud about that. I think just being tough has been the key.”
Battling through difficult and tight three-setters in all four of her matches so far this fortnight, Riske has put together her best career run at a Grand Slam and is now playing with increased confidence every match that in the big moments she and her game can come through.
“I couldn’t begin to say what it means to me. To have overcome the matches the way I have is what I’m most excited about,” commented Riske. “Getting to the quarterfinals is amazing but what’s most exciting for me is the way I’ve been fighting.”
“I love being at Wimbledon. Today I told my fiance, ‘I don’t want Wimbledon to end’.”
It’ll be an even tougher task for Riske to make sure her dream Wimbledon run doesn’t end in the last eight as she’ll need to summon all her resiliency and then some as she takes on seven-time championSerena Williams.
“I think it’s super exciting. I played doubles with Serena, but never played against her. It will be an interesting match,” said Riske. “Again, I think today was a great preparation for me going into the Serena match.”
“I’m ready for a war. She’s the greatest athlete I think that’s ever been on the women’s side. It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it,” concluded Riske.
Possibly an even bigger upset took place directly after Riske’s dismissal of Barty in the next match on No. 2 Court, where unseeded and relatively unknown Czech Karolina Muchova extended her career-best Grand Slam run with a shocking win over her fellow countrywoman and a title contender here, Eastbourne champion Karolina Pliskova.
Pliskova, seeded third, had another opportunity to finally claim a first Grand Slam title here coming in as one of the favorites, but after failing to serve out the match on two different occasions in the third and final set, the former world number one fell to Muchova 4-6, 7-5, 13-11 in a marathon three hours and 17 minutes of entertaining, high-octane all-court tennis.
“I never played such a long match, I think not even on clay. It was tough,” said the 22 year-old Muchova. “I was happy I could make last game to break her and we didn’t have to play a tiebreak.”
Muchova and Pliskova came just two points from making Wimbledon history by being the first match at The Championships to play a tiebreak at 12-all in the decisive final set after John Isner and Kevin Anderson’s marathon semifinal here last year prompted a rule change at each of the majors.
“I think I had a lot of chances, for sure,” said Pliskova. “I think I was not playing the best tennis, for sure, not today. My serve was quite off. I think she just played good. She had nothing to lose, so some shots were quite understandable. She just went for it. A little bit unlucky, but that’s how it is.”
For Pliskova, the loss means another major gone without really going deep and putting herself in position for that elusive Grand Slam crown. Having come into SW19 this year as one of the favorites and in arguably the best grass form of anyone entering the tournament, the loss will sting again for the 27 year-old Czech who has missed out on many opportunities at majors since making her only final at the 2016 US Open.
A fairytale story that had captivated Wimbledon out to the rest of the world came to an end on Monday, with 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep halting the 15 year-old American phenom Coco Gauff’s incredible run in the round of 16, a run no tennis fan or anyone around the world will soon forget.
Halep, the seventh seed here and a former semifinalist, held her nerve far better than Gauff, who stunned idol Venus Williams in the first round before saving match points in her most recent round, but it was a step too far this time as Coco fell 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 15 minutes.
“I learned a lot. I learned how to play in front of a big crowd. I learned what it was like to be under pressure. I learned a lot and I’m really thankful for this experience,” reflected Gauff. “I hope [fans] learned that I’m a fighter. I’ll never give up. I hope they learned from me that anything is possible if you work hard and just continue to dream big.”
“I wasn’t feeling very well but I still played my best. I’m not sure what it was but I still had fun even though I was losing,” said Gauff, who appeared to be dealing with some sort of virus or illness today.
“If somebody told me this maybe three weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t believe it,” recounted Gauff. “But I think just putting in the work definitely raised my confidence because I knew how hard I worked and I knew what shots I could make and what was possible.”
While Gauff’s Cinderella story in London will end today, Halep’s hopes of winning Wimbledon for the first time live on and will be tested yet again tomorrow as she faces Shaui Zhang in the quarterfinals.
“I am really happy I can play in the quarterfinals again, it’s one of my favorite tournaments,” said Halep,
“In my opinion, every tournament is an opportunity for everybody- for me also. I had good chance also in French Open. I didn’t get it. So now it’s a new challenge,” explained Halep. “I’m happy with the way I’m playing here on grass. I improved a lot. The most important thing is that I’m positive and confident when I step on the court.”
“I don’t want to think about the past that much. I’m different and I’m feeling different on court. This is what matters. Tomorrow I will fight for my match,” commented the former world number one.
While upsets dominated the early proceedings on Manic Monday, order was restored and the mayhem put to rest as soon as play began on the two biggest stages at the All England Club, with the sport’s four biggest names all sending resounding messages to the rest of the field with their dominant victories.
Opening play on Centre Court today, two-time champion and three seed Rafael Nadal continued to look confident and in ominous form, taking Portugal’s Joao Sousa to task with a thoroughly dominant 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory in an hour and 45 minutes exactly.
Nadal continued to ride the momentum from his big wins over dangerous opponents Nick Kyrgios and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the previous two rounds, serving big and walloping brutal groundstrokes off both wings to keep Sousa on defense for almost the entire match.
“I am happy to be where I am, the body is holding well and I’m playing some good tennis,” assessed Nadal.
“It was a good, solid match, the second serve didn’t work as well as two days ago, but the rest was very positive.”
The Spaniard will face another tough test similar to the two he passed against Kyrgios and Tsonga in the second and third rounds, respectively, in the quarterfinals when he faces the big-serving American Sam Querrey, a semifinalist here two years ago.
“When he [Querrey] plays well, he can be very, very dangerous in all surfaces,” said Nadal. “But, of course, in fast surfaces, when he serves with his aggressive game, maybe more.”
The game of Big Three but Best One continued as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer both looked to one up Nadal and each other as they continue along their collision course with possible semifinal and final matchups between the three greats of the game. Up next was Djokovic, the defending champion and top seed, who made light work of young Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 on No. 1 Court Monday afternoon.
“I don’t think about trying to conserve energy to be honest, I try to focus on what needs to be done to win the match,” said Djokovic, who is into his 11th Wimbledon quarterfinal.
“I was very pleased to execute the job in three sets.”
It was three straight sets but in winning in just an hour and 14 it felt more like two light ones for eight-time champion Roger Federer, perhaps putting on the most brutal beatdown of them all on 17th-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini, who won a grass court lead-up tournament in Stuttgart a month ago, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 amidst darkening evening skies on Centre Court.
“I felt good today. It’s also been a week. Now we’re two weeks into Wimbledon essentially, with one week of matches having been played,” said Federer.
“I think you can always lose a Grand Slam in that first week- but you can’t win it. If you get through it with energy in the tank you’re in a good position,” Federer said. “Five-setters are memorable and cool to play in but for the body it’s nice to avoid them.”
Having conserved energy thus far this tournament only dropped one set- his first of the fortnight- in the first round to South African Lloyd Harris, Federer, who will face eighth-seed Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, is looking on track for potentially a dream semifinal with Nadal and final showdown against Djokvovic.
“I think the performances start going up naturally. We know how the surface reacts, how the balls are flying, all these things. We can play closer to the lines,” assesed the Swiss.
“Obviously today was excellent. I was very happy. I was expecting a tough match and a close one with not many chances. It was actually quite the opposite, so that was great.”
“I’ve got into a great groove and today I was able to read his serve, get returns back in and take control from the baseline,” explained the 20-time major winner.
There was no question 23-time major champion Serena Williams has found her groove in this tournament. After playing her best match so far to outpace the big-hitting German Julia Goerges in the previous round, Williams kept up the good form in round four against the veteran Spaniard, 30th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, winning 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and four minutes.
“The rust is definitely wearing off,” said Williams, a warning shot to the seven other women remaining seeking the Wimbledon title, a trophy she’s hoisted on her own seven times, seven times more than the rest of the last eight field. “Most of all I feel confident that I can actually move and I don’t have to go for winners so soon because I’m in pain.”
“I literally can’t even tell you how much better I feel. That’s a relief. That’s a victory in itself, to know that I’m feeling better no matter what. I’m on the right path. I finally found the solution. I can be strong for the rest of the year,” commented the American.
“I’ve had more matches this week than literally the last five months, and now I’m feeling better physically it’s almost relief more than anything.”
“I always get excited, I’m a really pumped up player, of course I still want it or else I wouldn’t be here.”
Awaiting Williams in the quarterfinals will be her countrywoman Riske, a former Fed Cup doubles partner of Williams.
“I think she’s a great girl, a great person. She’s just kind of a great personality that you kind of gravitate to.”
There was success for British fans as the home hope and 19th seed Johanna Konta out-gunned two-time champion Petra Kvitova 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Centre Court, setting up a winnable quarterfinal for the Brit on Tuesday against Czech veteran Barbora Strycova, who saw off Belgium’s Elise Mertens in three sets in her own right earlier today.
The all-American men’s duel went the way of Californian Sam Querrey on Court 12, dispatching his countryman Tennys Sandgren in four sets 6-4, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in nearly three hours on his way to a Wednesday date with Nadal.