Just one day shy of her 16th birthday, Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk fought back from the brink twice to defeat American Kristie Ahn 6-7 (1), 6-3, 9-7 and reach the final round of Wimbledon qualifying on Wednesday.
Ahn served for the match twice but Kostyuk refused to fold as she stepped closer to making her Wimbledon main draw debut with a hard-fought two-hour 42-minute triumph, which she celebrated with a signature acrobatic backward flip on court.
Kostyuk, who made a surprise run to the third round of the Australian Open last January to become the youngest woman to make that stage in Melbourne since Martina Hingis in 1996 next faces Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo on Thursday.
“I was just so happy that I went through this second round because last year I was losing straight in Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open, so I was like this one I have to win. I feel like I’ve broken the wall,” Kostyuk said after the match.
“I was so pissed the whole match, I have no idea why. I was just tired probably.”
With Wimbledon fast-approaching, many are tipping Roger Federer to defend his title at the All England Club and claim a record-extending ninth trophy there.
He is likely to be seeded No. 1 at SW19, despite losing the top spot to Rafael Nadal after falling to Borna Coric in the Halle final last Sunday.
Wimbledon apply a special formula to the 32 seeds in the main draw, reshuffling them according to their recent results on grass.
The final seedings list will be published on Wednesday, and will probably see world No. 5 Marin Cilic get bumped up to the No. 3 seed spot, due to his two runner-up showings at Queens and Wimbledon last year, and his title triumph at Queens on Sunday.
But outside the seeds, there are several players who can create surprises on grass. Here are five unseeded direct entrants to watch at Wimbledon next week.
The 31-year-old Frenchman is enjoying a stunning grass court season in which he has won 12 matches on the surface out of 14 contested in the past three weeks. He won the Surbiton Challenger, made the finals at s-Hertogenbosch and reached the semi-finals at Queens, where he lost a tight two-setter to Novak Djokovic.
His best showing at Wimbledon is making the fourth round in 2014 and he’ll fancy his chances of going far next fortnight if his body holds up.
With a game tailored for grass, Lopez can probably spend his whole life playing on it. The 36-year-old Spaniard, currently down to No. 70 in the world, made back-to-back quarter-finals on the lawns of Stuttgart and Queens these past couple of weeks. He is a three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist and is a first round many would like to avoid.
The 19-year-old Greek has limited experience on the surface, having played a total of six tour-level main draw matches on grass in his young career. But he made the semis at Wimbledon juniors in 2016, and qualified for the men’s main draw last year before losing in the first round to Dusan Lajovic. He has a game that could work well on the surface and his build-up to this Wimbledon included a quarter-final run in s-Hertogenbosch. He is ranked No. 35 in the world, which makes him one of the highest-ranked non-seeds in the draw.
Here's the men's seeds for Wimbledon (barring withdrawals), which will be confirmed on Wednesday. Federer still top seed despite losing world No 1 ranking to Nadal today.
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) June 25, 2018
The 35-year-old from Luxembourg has slipped to No. 60 in the world but he is always a dangerman on grass. He eliminated Rafael Nadal twice from Wimbledon, including last year in an epic five-setter en route to the quarter-finals. With a big serve and a strong net game, Muller can find his footing again on the lawns at SW19.
While he hasn’t confirmed yet whether he will play Wimbledon or not, his opening round win over Stan Wawrinka in Eastbourne on Monday was definitely encouraging. If Murray does decide to play, he will be unseeded as the world No. 156. Sidelined with a hip injury that required surgery and kept him out of the game for nearly a year, Murray has played just two tournaments since losing in the Wimbledon quarter-finals to Sam Querrey last season. He is a two-time champion at the All England Club and owns a 57-10 win-loss record there. If he plays, it means he’s ready to compete and will be a tough floater in the draw.
Andy Murray refused to commit to competing at Wimbledon next week despite securing his first victory in almost a year when overcoming Stan Wawrinka at the Nature Valley International.
The former world number one, who returned from hip surgery only last week, convinced in defeating Wawrinka 6-1 6-3 in only one hour and 17 minutes, suggesting he remains capable of being competitive at the All England Club where in July 2017 he secured his previous win.
A Grand Slam would instead present him with the potential challenge of five sets at a time when he has so far lost to Nick Kyrgios over three and overcome his Swiss opponent in two, but having shown signs of progress he said: “My health and my body are my priority right now.
“I will make that decision when I’m ready. If I feel like I’m in good enough shape, I’ll do it. If I don’t, then obviously I won’t play. I’m coming back from a very serious injury which is not easy.
“I’m not putting any pressure on myself to make that decision after one match here or two matches, because I don’t need to. I can decide when I want.
“The match with Nick was two hours 45 minutes, and the slams, you have to be prepared for four hours. That (against Kyrgios) obviously could have gone another couple of sets potentially, and I didn’t feel great the following day.”
In the second round on Wednesday he will face Kyle Edmund.