Garbine Muguruza ended Angelique Kerber’s reign as world No1 with a three-set victory over the German top seed in the Wimbledon fourth round on Monday.
Kerber needed to at least reach the final this fortnight to have a chance of keeping her No1 ranking but a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Muguruza in the last-16 means her 34-week stint at the top will come to an end on Monday, July 17.
Muguruza, last year’s French Open champion, has now won her last five consecutive matches against Kerber, who is yet to defeat a top-20 opponent this season.
The pair produced some incredible tennis on Court No. 2 on Monday, pushing each other to their limits and combining for a total of 82 winners – 55 of which came off of the Muguruza racquet.
“I think was a good match. I know I won it, but I think was a good match for both of us. You know, we battle out there. Every point we give our best,” said the Spanish No14 seed.
“Every match that I play against Kerber is like that. I remember two years ago when we played here, was a quite similar match. Happy that it went my way, of course, after fighting there for two hours.”
What happened on Court No. 2 on Monday was a beautiful thing. Two former Grand Slam champions and ex-runners-up at Wimbledon forgot all the struggles they battled through heading into the tournament and remembered the kind of tennis they both are capable of producing.
Muguruza and Kerber somehow managed to lift each other up, taking their level of play to incredible heights, as they painted the lines with their shot-making prowess.
The first break point of the match was for Kerber on the Muguruza serve at 3-3 which the German created with a signature passing shot. But Muguruza was unfazed, slamming big groundstrokes from the back of the court to set up a volley winner and hold soon after, despite receiving a time violation warning.
Kerber got the break though in game nine to put herself in the position to serve for the set at 5-4. Muguruza slammed down her 18th winner of the set to save a first set point but Kerber smashed her way to a one-set lead on her second opportunity.
Muguruza saved a break point en route to a 2-1 hold in the second set and leveled the match with a 41st winner to force a decider.
Kerber broke serve to open the third set but it only triggered a break-fest between the pair, as the match got tenser, and they each struggled to hold serve.
Muguruza finally stopped the trend and pulled off a massive hold in a 10+ minute game for 4-3 and got her first two match points on the Kerber serve at 5-4. The top seed saved the first with a service winner and hit a monster cross-court backhand to save the second.
A well-placed down-the-line backhand gave Muguruza a third match point and she got the win on a netted error from Kerber.
She may have lost a heart-breaker and with it her No1 ranking, but Kerber leaves Wimbledon with plenty of positives.
“It was for sure the best match for a long time for me,” said the German, who will drop to either No3 or No4 in the rankings depending on Johanna Konta and Svetlana Kuznetsova’s results.
Simona Halep would secure the No1 ranking if she wins her quarter-final on Tuesday against Konta. Halep was impressive in her 7-6 (3), 6-2 win over new mum Victoria Azarenka and is bidding to become the first Romanian woman to hold the No1 ranking.
If she loses on Tuesday, Karolina Pliskova will be crowned the new world No1 on Monday.
Even though she’s just one win away from the top spot, she has far bigger targets this fortnight.
“I want to win more, not just one match. So I’m not thinking about that,” said Halep.
The 37-year-old Venus Williams became the oldest Wimbledon quarter-finalist since Martina Navratilova in 1994 thanks to a 6-3, 6-2 win over Ana Konjuh, who was born seven months after Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1997.
“I just keep stretching. I have no secrets. I stretch a little harder now. But only because I enjoy it,” Williams, who was runner-up at the Australian Open last January, said of how she keeps going at 37.
Kuznetsova reached her first Wimbledon quarter-final in 10 years with a confident 6-2, 6-4 win over 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska. She next faces Muguruza for a place in the semis.
“When you look at the statistics, it’s amazing. But I felt like I have been there, so it’s just another quarter-final, it’s gonna be another competitive match, so I’m just looking forward to it,” said Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion.
Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals since Jo Durie in 1984 with a hard-earned 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 win over French No21 seed Caroline Garcia.
“It’s very exciting. It’s another step forward to being involved in the event for the full two weeks. But it is a massive compliment to me. It’s a great achievement,” she said of hitting a new milestone.
Roger Federer reached his 50th Grand Slam quarter-final and 15th at Wimbledon – going one clear of Jimmy Connors at the top of the Open Era list of most quarter-finals reached at the All England Club – with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over 13th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov.
Federer next faces Canadian No6 seed Milos Raonic, who defeated Federer in last year’s semi-finals.
* Video courtesy of wimbledon.com
Rafael Nadal and his coach Toni Nadal agreed that this Wimbledon felt like a missed opportunity after the Spaniard suffered a narrow five-set defeat to Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller in the fourth round on Monday
The fourth-seeded Rafa entered the match having won his last 28 consecutive completed sets at the Grand Slams, but dropped the opening two against Muller before falling 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 15-13 in a 4hr 48min marathon on Court No. 1.
Rafa, who hasn’t made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2011, fired 77 winners, including 23 aces, and committed just 17 unforced errors across five sets, but still walked away the loser against a brilliant Muller, who is into his first quarter-final at the All England Club at the age of 34.
“I lost in the fourth round. That’s not the result that I was expecting. It’s true that I played some good matches, but the same time is true that I didn’t want to lose that match. So is tough to analyse that in a positive way right now,” said a visibly disappointed Rafa.
“Difficult to say. Yeah, I won matches. I play better than other years, true. At the same time I was ready for important things, so I lost an opportunity.”
His uncle and coach Toni echoed his thoughts, saying: “Yes it is (a missed opportunity). This year we arrived here with a better level, with more confidence. But now it’s time to think about the next tournaments.”
Muller saved 14 of the 16 break points he faced during the match, including all five he faced in the deciding fifth set. The No16 seed hit 95 winners against 52 unforced errors and won 59/83 points at the net.
“He played well. I think I didn’t play my best the first two sets. I make a couple mistakes that make me then play all the time against the score. And that’s so difficult against a player like him,” said Rafa.
“So well done for him. He played well. Especially in the fifth, he played great game. I was there, fighted until the last ball, with the right attitude. Probably was not my best match, but at the same time I played against a very uncomfortable opponent.
“Is stupid to say now, but maybe if I had that break at the first set, third or fourth game, maybe we are in a completely different situation. But I didn’t.
“But I was there, too. I had some important breakpoints, these kind of breakpoints are almost match points. I had a couple of ones. I make few mistakes, yeah, especially one that I went to the net. Easy to say now, but I am better than him from the baseline, so I probably should not go to the net that early with that shot.
“Then another one that I wanted to play aggressive with my forehand, and I miss it long. That’s it. Another one, second serve, I had a good return. The line (judge) said out, and was good. That was another one that then was an ace.”
Toni noted that Rafa did not pull off enough returns on the Muller serve in the first two sets and admits it is a painful defeat for the Spaniard, but one he shouldn’t dwell upon too much.
“Every loss is painful but when you lose 15-13 in the fifth at a tournament of this magnitude of course it’s painful. It’s not the same obviously to lose in the fourth round compared to losing in a final but it still hurts,” explained Toni.
“Because it’s a fourth round match, he won’t think about it too much. Now it’s normal to think about it because he thinks he could win this point, or if the line judge didn’t make this mistake maybe he can win, but it’s not the same as losing in the final in Australia.”
Despite the defeat, Rafa showed a high level in the opening three rounds, perhaps displaying some form on grass he hadn’t been able to produce in many years.
Does Toni think Rafa has the belief he can win a third Wimbledon crown in the future?
“I hope, but I don’t know. But I think if Rafael played like this year, he can have the possibility to win Wimbledon again,” said the Mallorcan coach.
Muller ended a 22-match losing streak against top-five opposition, dating back to 2008. The 34-year-old is enjoying a great 2017, where he won his first two ATP titles, in Sydney, and more recently on grass at s-Hertogenbosch.
He has a tour-leading 11-1 win-loss on grass this season and next faces Marin Cilic for a place in what would be his first Grand Slam semi-final.
“I just tried to hang in there,” said Muller of his epic battle with Rafa. “I thought I played pretty well through the whole match. Rafa stepped it up in the third and the fourth set.
“Then I just told myself, ‘Look, I mean, I’m doing the best I can. I’m playing well. Just hang in there and you’re going to get your chances’. Got a few of them. Didn’t take the first ones. But still kept believing. Yeah, somehow in the end I made it.”
Rafael Nadal became the latest player to comment on the scheduling of courts at Wimbledon as the Spaniard noted that “almost always the same players” are playing on Centre Court at the All England Club.
Nadal lost in the fourth round to Gilles Muller in five sets on Court No. 1 on Monday and later stated he would love to come back to the tournament next year for another attempt to capture a third Wimbledon crown, but not without mentioning he was keen to play on Centre Court.
“I never said I not going to come back. Yeah, I want to come back because I want to play more times in the Centre Court,” said the Mallorcan 15-time Grand Slam champion.
Nadal played two of his four rounds this past week on Centre Court, and two on Court No. 1.
Two-time champion and home favourite Andy Murray has played all four of his rounds on Centre, so has seven-time winner Roger Federer, while three-time champion Novak Djokovic twice on Court No. 1 and twice on Centre (his fourth round was scheduled on Court No. 1 but was postponed to Tuesday and will be played on Centre Court).
Nadal added in the Spanish part of his press conference: “I like playing more on Centre Court. Someone has to play on Centre, and it’s almost always the same players here. This is the reality. Here, there are many of us who have won a lot in our careers, who have a lot of important history behind us.
“A tournament that wants to be as traditional and as special as Wimbledon has to distribute the number of matches scheduled on Centre Court and that not always the same people play there, and when there are doubts, the others are sent to other courts.”
With all 16 fourth round matches from the men’s and women’s draws scheduled on ‘Manic Monday’, scheduling was naturally a tricky task for Wimbledon.
But throughout the tournament, not just on Monday, men were given twice as many matches on Centre Court than the women, which led Angelique Kerber and Jelena Ostapenko to voice their concerns over the issue.
Defending champion Andy Murray admits the scheduling isn’t fair for the ladies and that having four matches on Centre Court instead of three could solve the problem.
“I don’t think anyone’s suggesting it is fair. I’m not suggesting that it is,” said Murray on Monday after his straight-sets win over Benoit Paire on Centre Court.
“I do also think that is the case – I could be wrong – at the Aussie Open. I think on the centre court it’s three women’s matches and two men’s matches every day. Is that right? I think so, just because of timing, as well.
“It would be much better if there was four matches. You know, you have the two men’s and the two women’s, obviously.
“But I’m not the one that decides the schedule. When you start at 1:00, and you can’t play under the lights, you have a very limited amount of time. Like the other day when I played Fognini (in the third round), we had hardly any light left. The matches were not particularly long that day, and we almost ran out of time, you know.
“So maybe starting the matches a little bit sooner, a little bit earlier in the day, and splitting them between the men and women. It’s not the hardest thing to do.”