London: World number one Ashleigh Barty’s hopes of becoming the first Australian women’s champion in nearly four decades were dashed on Monday opening the way for Serena Williams to potentially equal the all-time Grand Slam haul.
Having looked assured last week, while Williams was not altogether convincing, it was the 23-year-old Australian who cracked and went down in three sets to unseeded American Alison Riske 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
“It is a tough one to swallow but I lost to a better player,” said Barty. “I had to play aggressive. I had to take it to Ash,” said RiskE.
Williams, bidding for a 24th Grand Slam title to tie with Australian Margaret Court, will play Riske next after trouncing Carla Suzarez Navarro 6-2, 6-2.
For Riske it was perhaps an unexpected early wedding present — she gets married after Wimbledon to Stephen Amritraj, the son of former Indian Davis Cup player Anand — but extremely well-earned.
It will be the 29-year-old’s first appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Williams, whose clay court season was affected by a knee injury, said the hunger for the game and for victory is as strong as ever.
Coco Gauff’s dream run came to an abrupt end when the consistency of seventh seed and former world number one Simona Halep proved a step too far for the 15-year-old American, who went down 6-3, 6-3 in only 75 minutes.
Big Three progress
Novak Djokovic remained firmly in control of his title defence and beat France’s Ugo Humbert 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to storm into the quarterfinal.
Eight-time champion Roger Federer hardly broke a sweat against Italian Matteo Berrettini in his 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win. The Swiss maestro reached 17th Wimbledon quarterfinal.
The sweet-spot in Rafael Nadal’s racket appeared to be the size of a beachball on Monday as the Spaniard fired off winners left, right and centre to hurtle into the Wimbledon quarter-finals with a ruthless 6-2 6-2 6-2 win over Joao Sousa.
Meanwhile, after stunning Venus Williams then saving two match points en route to beating Polona Hercog last week, Gauff was suddenly the hottest ticket in town but she was always going to find it tough against Halep, last year’s French Open champion and the first top-10 opponent she had ever faced.
Bidding to become the youngest Wimbledon quarterfinalist since fellow-15-year-old Jennifer Capriati in 1991, Gauff was by no means overawed, keeping the crowd entertained with some crashing backhands and athletic recoveries, but there were also far too many simple errors that the American was never going to get away with at this stage of the tournament.
Halep initially struggled, including in the third game where she sent down three successive double faults. But Gauff was even more inconsistent, mixing up some superb shots with some pretty awful ones.
Halep then began to find her range and quickly realised that she did not need to take too many risks, keeping the ball in play, accepting that the occasional winner would whistle past her but more often winning the point via a Gauff mistake.
Gauff, who needed courtside medical treatment between the sets, started to snatch at her shots and became too loose while Halep did what she needed to as the American racked up a total of 45 unforced errors in the match.
Gauff did save two match points when serving at 5-2 down but this time it was only a temporary reprieve as Halep finished her off in the next game. The Romanian will now face China’s Shuai Zhang in the quarterfinals.
Zhang became the first Chinese woman since Li Na in 2013 to reach the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 win over Ukraine teenager Dayana Yastremska.
Pliskova, Kvitova exit
Unseeded Karolina Muchova outlasted third seed and fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova to reach the last eight in the longest women’s match at the championships so far this year.
Muchova won 4-6, 7-5, 13-11 in three hours 17 minutes, claiming victory with a netcord as former world number one Pliskova’s wait for a first Grand Slam title continued.
Britain’s Jo Konta staggered away from a head-on collision with twice champion Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon on Monday for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win to reach the last eight-stage.