WIMBLEDON, England – For nearly an hour on Monday, the No.1 court was in turmoil as 18-year-old Briton Emma Raducanu continued to make the most of her Wimbledon debut.
She was holding on from the baseline against Ajla Tomljanovic, a hard-hitting Australian veteran who is 10 years her senior. Raducanu was hitting the ball with authority and reveling in the support of the crowd, as she has been doing all last week.
But after losing the first set, 4-6, then trailing 0-3 in the second, she had to leave the pitch with what tournament officials later described as “difficulty breathing.” She didn’t come back.
There would be no more winners or roars on Monday as Tomljanovic, not Raducanu, advanced to his first Grand Slam singles quarter-final. Raducanu did not give a press conference or issue a statement after his withdrawal.
“I am very sorry for her,” said Tomljanovic. “I wish I could have finished it, but it’s sport. It happens. I really wish him all the best.
It was a disheartening end to a day full of uplifting stories in women’s tennis: the rebirth of Angélique Kerber, breakthroughs for Aryna Sabalenka and Viktorija Golubic and the latest dazzling displays of power and touch from Ons Jabeur.
It was also a pessimistic conclusion to last Manic Monday – Wimbledon’s annual race to lead all of its fourth round singles matches after a Sunday of complete rest. Next year, that tradition will end and Wimbledon will become a 14-day tournament, like the US Open and Australian Open.
But Wimbledon, with its grass courts and predominantly white clothing rule, will remain a Grand Slam tournament on its own.
Of this year’s female quarterfinals, only Kerber won a singles title at Wimbledon, having beaten Serena Williams in the 2018 final with an inspired performance. After falling in the standings, it goes back 33 years. On center court on Monday, she beat and sometimes entangled Coco Gauff, the 17-year-old American who hopes to follow Williams to the top of the game.
“Everyone playing her on the scouting report says, ‘Be prepared for bullets that you don’t think are going to come back to come back,’” Gauff said in a balanced and analytical press conference after the 6 -4, 6- of Kerber. 4th victory. “I was impressed with his speed, but it was also expected. I just felt like she was playing like I thought she was going to play. She just played really well.
Gauff, who also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019, struggled to keep his serve against Kerber. Part of this was due to the windy conditions, but mostly to Kerber, which brought in 82% of its returns. None of Gauff’s top three opponents at Wimbledon had managed to pass 67%.
But the flat-hitting southpaw Kerber also successfully attacked Gauff’s less reliable groundstroke, the forehand. She has taken Gauff upside down on several occasions with patterns of backlash and well-disguised changes of direction. Kerber extended the rally as few players can and also pulled off several exquisite passing shots as Gauff pushed towards the net.
“She did a good job making me compete and playing me,” Gauff said. “I feel like there are times in the game that I got out of the game, and I think sometimes the best decision is to just put the ball in play and see what your opponent can do.”
Kerber will face No.19 seed Karolina Muchova on Tuesday. In the other quarter-final of the first half of the draw, a non-seeded Tomljanovic will face seed Ashleigh Barty in an all-Australian clash. Barty beat Barbora Krejcikova, 7-5, 6-3, on Monday to reach her first singles quarter-final at Wimbledon.
Krejcikova, surprise champion of Roland-Garros last month, had won 15 consecutive singles matches. On Monday, she again deployed her many weapons: sliced serves and backhands, a heavy forehand, angled volleys and blocked returns. But Barty held on, doing constant damage with his own serve and forehand.
After retiring in the second round at Roland Garros with a left hip injury, Barty didn’t play again until Wimbledon, but she bounced back convincingly and she jumps the double here to put all her energy into the singles .
“The drug rehab between Paris and here in London, we’ve had 22 or 23 days,” Barty said. “We did everything the best we could. I feel good. I feel ready.
Although Barty has been world No. 1 for 83 weeks, she only has one Grand Slam singles title, the 2019 French Open. Women’s tennis seems to be an open road at this point. In the first three Grand Slam tournaments of 2021, a total of 22 women reached the quarter-finals, with only Barty and Muchova managing to go this far twice.
Because Naomi Osaka won the Australian Open and Krejcikova won in Paris, another 2021 champion is guaranteed for Wimbledon, as is a first finalist in singles at Wimbledon in the bottom half of the draw.
In the quarter-finals of this half, 8th Karolina Pliskova will face unranked Golubic, and No.2 seed Sabalenka will face 21st seed Jabeur.
Golubic, 28, a Swiss veteran who has never been this far in a Grand Slam tournament, is a rarity in the women’s game, with a one-handed backhand. She beat Madison Keys of the United States, 7-6, 6-3, on Monday, finishing with 28 winners and just nine unforced errors, then kneeling down to kiss the grass to commemorate her victory.
Sabalenka, a 23-year-old Belarusian who punctuates her powerful shots with screeches, felt like she was about to burst into tears of relief as she prepared to end her highly successful duel with Elena Rybakina. Although Sabalenka won 10 touring titles and became a top 10 figure, she had never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament.
Her 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win fixed that issue, but she put the celebration on hold.
“I was almost crying, but then how to put it, I calmed down and understood that it was not the end goal,” said Sabalenka. “There is a game tomorrow.
It should be difficult. Jabeur, the first woman from one of 22 Arab League countries to reach a singles quarter-final at Wimbledon, is in great shape. After knocking out former Wimbledon champions Venus Williams and Garbiñe Muguruza, Jabeur rallied to beat No.7 seed Iga Swiatek, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, on Monday.
Jabeur, a 26-year-old Tunisian, is best known for her skillful drop shots, but she often took a more forceful approach against Swiatek, hitting nine aces and responding to the Polish star’s heavy hitting with her own powerful groundstrokes.
“I’m trying to get the whole package,” Jabeur said. “You never know. Against the players, you have to change the pace sometimes to make them feel bad. Sometimes you have to be aggressive to try to win the point as well.
What is clear is that she will face many assaults from Sabalenka.