Serena and Venus Williams were pushed to their limits on Friday before they both claimed hard-fought victories, on a day that saw several people question scheduling decisions at the All England Club.
Defending champion Serena fought back from 0-2 in the final set to overcome her fellow American world No65 Christina McHale 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-4 and book a third round with Germany’s Annika Beck, while five-time winner Venus played the longest final set of her grand slam career to get past No29 seed Daria Kasatkina 7-5, 4-6, 10-8 to reach the fourth round.
The rain meant that while Venus was booking herself a spot in the last 16, someone like No10 seed Petra Kvitova had not even started her second round, courtesy of some messy scheduling.
Kvitova, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, played her first round on Court 18 and on Friday was on Court 2 – her second round with Ekaterina Makarova yet to be completed with five days gone in the tournament.
Three of the women’s second rounds are still underway while just one from the men’s draw is yet to be concluded.
Meanwhile, someone like Roger Federer is already in the fourth round having played all three of his matches on Centre Court, which is the only court with a roof at Wimbledon, that can be shut during the rain.
Many have voiced their concern over the inequality between men and women when it comes to scheduling matches, including Venus, who as a five-time champion, was also scheduled on Court 18 on Thursday.
Asked if he felt guilty about having the advantage of the roof for all three of his matches, Federer said: “I feel it is what it is. I’ve been lucky with the draw. Is it good to play the Brits? I’m not sure. The draw, it is what it is. Credit to myself for maybe winning as much as I did here in previous years that I do get put on either Centre Court or 1.”
Venus was happy to play on Court 18 but believes women should get equal opportunity to play on the main courts compared to the men.
“It’s not the ideal schedule for the women. We’d like to see equal amount of matches. We don’t want more, just the same amount, that’s all,” said the 36-year-old.
“The All England Club has to have a culture where they want to have equality, as well. They need to want to pursue that. I would love to see where we don’t have to talk about this any more in the press conference.”
No4 seed Stan Wawrinka was understandably on Centre Court on Friday (he played Juan Martin del Potro), while No4 seed Angelique Kerber has been scheduled on Court 18 and Court 12 in her last two matches.
Asked if he noticed any sexism in scheduling, Wawrinka said: “That’s a pretty strange question. If you look the schedule, I think yesterday or two days ago, was four matches women on Centre, and one guy or two. I think they just trying what they can do with the schedule.
“They cannot put five or six match on Centre. I think you need to look every day. Today was one girl match, two men’s match. Two days ago was three or four girl’s match and one men’s match. I don’t think there is anything.”
The rarely-outspoken Carla Suarez Navarro echoed Venus’ views.
“I read something like that and I agree. Every player has to play on every court, the tournament try to put different players on different courts and it’s a really important thing what Venus said,” said the Spanish No12 seed.
On court, Serena was tested for a third time on as many surfaces against McHale before she advanced.
“I know mentally no one can break me,” the world No1 said during her TV interview.
She added later in her press conference: “There were times where I was down and out. I just kept fighting. That’s what I know I can do best. I knew that I could count on that, rely on that.”
McHale was understandable disappointed to lose and says she hopes to advance further in the slams in the near future.
Asked if she agreed with Serena, that she is mentally unbreakable, McHale said: “You’re definitely aware of everything she’s accomplished, she’s the greatest of all-time, so you’re aware of that and you know that no lead is ever safe.
“But she does lose matches sometimes, so I don’t think it’s safe to say that she’s unbeatable but when it comes down to it, she’ll take her chances when they come.”
On how she feels she continues to trouble the American world No1, McHale said: “I think, maybe my style of play of getting a lot of balls back, making her hit a lot of balls, putting her in maybe awkward positions, I wasn’t expecting on the grass to be so close and have so many chances but I guess I’ll learn from this and be able to make it farther in the slams soon.”
Tempers flared at the All England Club on Friday as Feliciano Lopez had a heated argument with Fabio Fognini’s coach, Jose Perlas, on court following the Spaniard’s five-set victory.
The 22nd-seeded Lopez came back from two sets down to beat Fognini 3-6, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in a rain-interrupted second round and left the court fuming and yelling at Perlas, who allegedly insulted the Spaniard during the match.
“There’s nothing wrong between me and Fabio, it’s just that his coach, all of a sudden, when I won the third set, he just said something to me, in Spanish, something very rude. I don’t know why,” a stunned Lopez said after his win.
“And as I told him ‘this never happened to me in 20 years that the coach of my opponent insulted me during the match’. Never ever in my life, so I don’t know why. That’s it. And then I was telling Fabio that this shouldn’t be possible. ‘What’s wrong with your coach that he is going that way to me all of a sudden?’ Because nothing happened between me and Fabio?”
Lopez actually believes his anger at Perlas, a former coach of Spaniard Carlos Moya, is what spurred him to complete his comeback and secure a third round meeting with No15 seed Nick Kyrgios.
“I was very disappointed and I was so pissed and I think that thing, motivated me a lot in order to come back because I was so pissed and I was full of energy when this happened,” said the 34-year-old Lopez.
Fognini refused to comment on the situation when asked by reporters in both English and Spanish.
Lopez’s public argument with Perlas comes on the heels of Viktor Troicki’s epic meltdown the day before as he growled at umpire Damiano Torella over what the Serb believes was a wrong call.
It appears the difficult weather that has plagued the tournament so far has sent everyone into a state of stress with even reporters getting testy with Kyrgios following his difficult five-set win over Dustin Brown.
In a match that was scheduled at 11:00am and finished just before 19:00 due to multiple rain delays, Kyrgios stayed the course to overcome the flamboyant and unorthodox Brown 6-7(3), 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The last rain interruption saw the pair leave Court No2 locked at 3-3 in the final set, with Kyrgios holding a break point on the Brown serve.
“Not easy,” Kyrgios said on having to go back to the locker room while having a break point.
“Obviously however long I was in the locker room, hour, hour and a half after the rain delay, that’s all I’m thinking about really. All the guys in the locker room watching my match gave me a bit of stick about where is he going to serve? All this stuff. I was like, I don’t really want to think about it that much.
“It was tough. I knew what he was going to do. He was going to serve and volley. I just didn’t know where he was going to serve. Then he came up with a ridiculous volley. On the inside I was fuming, but on the outside I had to stay composed.”
Kyrgios received a code violation for verbal abuse in the third set and was questioned about his behaviour in the post-match press conference.
“I thought my behavior was really good throughout the match,” said the 21-year-old Aussie.
“Obviously went a little bit off track towards the third. At the same time, I thought it was okay, to be honest. The crowd was loving it. I’m sure a lot of people around the world were watching that match. That’s what sport is. It’s entertainment, isn’t it?”
He then had a back and forth at the end of the press conference with a couple of journalists who claimed he had sworn at the umpire – which Kyrgios had not done.
“What did I say to the umpire today?” Kyrgios asked the reporter. “You got a code violation, didn’t you?” replied the journalist.
“Not for swearing at him,” Kyrgios fired back.
Reporter: “You said he did a horrendous job.”
Kyrgios: “Is that bad language? Have you never said a swear word before? Have you never said a swear word in your life?
Kyrgios: “Can you answer my question?”
Kyrgios: “So you’ve never sworn in your life?”
Reporter: “It’s your job to answer mine.”
Kyrgios: “No, it’s not. He actually asked me the question. It’s his question, mate (pointing to another reporter). It’s his question.”
The conversation ended soon after.
Kyrgios admits dealing with a long day of rain delays was difficult and he’ll return to the court on Saturday for his third round with Lopez.
“It’s tough. I feel really tired right now,” he said Friday night.
“I mean, to be scheduled at 11:00, and actually finish the match, I don’t know, like 20 minutes ago, it’s tough. Credit to both of us (himself and Brown) for still being able to play pretty well.”
For a five-set match, Kyrgios only spent two hours and five minutes in action on court against Brown, with both players known for their swift pace, and barely any long rallies contested between them.
Having gone through a tough four-setter against Radek Stepanek in the opening round, and a tight five-setter against Brown, Kyrgios has another difficult affair ahead of him against Lopez, who is a three-time quarter-finalist at Wimbledon.
“It’s one of the toughest (draws I’ve had),” said Kyrgios.
“I think Feli has one of the best serves on tour. Radek and Dustin both are some of the best grass court players there are. No one wants to play them. I’m taking confidence out of these wins. I’m not nearly playing any of my best tennis yet as well, which is also a positive. I’m finding ways to win these matches.”
On his part, Lopez is bracing himself for a difficult affair against a player who made the quarters here on his debut two years ago, beating Rafael Nadal en route.
“It’s a very tough match. I think he’s one of the best players now in the game,” Lopez said of Kyrgios.
Novak Djokovic’s title defence was left hanging in the balance when he fell behind two-sets-to-love against Sam Querrey before rain suspended his third round on Friday, while organisers announced play will return to Middle Sunday for the first time since 2004.
On yet another rainy day that wreaked havoc with the schedule at SW19, Djokovic was put on the roofless Court No.1 and the Serb was in serious trouble as he trailed American No.28 seed Querrey 6-7 (6), 1-6 before rain came to his rescue just after the clock struck 20:00.
An announcement was made soon after that no matches would resume on the outside courts due to the weather, which means the top seed will return for the rest of his match with Querrey on Saturday.
Last year, circumstance had also come to Djokovic’s aid. In the fourth round, he went down two-sets-to-love against Kevin Anderson and play was suspended due to bad light with the pair locked at two-sets-all. He returned the following day to beat Anderson in five, en route to capturing the title.
The rain interrupted play multiple times on all courts except Centre on Friday leaving several second round clashes not completed. That forced Wimbledon officials to make the rare call of allowing matches to be played on Middle Sunday which is traditionally an off day for the tournament.
The decision was announced late Friday night with one men’s singles second round and three women’s singles second rounds yet to conclude.
Rain disrupted action on Tuesday and Wednesday and although there was a full day’s play on Thursday, persistent showers meant there was hardly any play yesterday before 15:00.
Alexander Zverev and Mikhail Youzhny are into a fifth set in their second round with Tomas Berdych awaiting in the third.
In women’s action, second round encounters between Sloane Stephens and Mandy Minella, Timea Bacsinszky and Monica Niculescu, and Petra Kvitova and Ekaterina Makarova are all incomplete.
Play on Middle Sunday has taken place on only three previous occasions in the tournament’s 139-year history – 1991, 1997 and 2004.