While Australia’s Ashleigh Barty progressed to the third round, matching her performance from the previous year, another major obstacle has been removed from her path to a first Wimbledon title.
Barty kicked off day four by defeating Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck in straight sets in less than one hour after racing to a 5-0 lead before the crowd had even settled in.
She then got herself in the position to serve for the match at 5-2 before carelessly losing her serve after being up 30-0, but it only delayed the inevitable as the Australian moved closer to winning a second consecutive major title.
In the third round she will face Great Britain’s Harriet Dart in a match that is certain to be scheduled for Centre Court, which would be the first time she would play on tennis’ grandest of stages as a senior professional since reaching the women’s doubles final in 2013.
While Barty went about her business, later in the day she saw her potential quarter-final opponent and defending champion Angelique Kerber crash out of the tournament after falling to American lucky loser Lauren Davis in three sets.
The German, who has struggled for form this year, took the opening set 6-2 and appeared to be on her way before Davis took the final two sets for the loss of just three games to notch up the biggest win of her career since defeating then-world No.4 Victoria Azarenka at Indian Wells in 2014.
Kerber became the third women’s top ten seed to fall inside the first four days of the tournament, after Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka both lost on the opening day.
She was also the fourth former champion to crash out inside the first week after Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams all dropped their opening matches.
It is also the second consecutive year that a women’s defending champion has fallen at the second hurdle after Muguruza fell to Van Uytvanck 12 months ago.
Ash Barty is flying while champions are dropping like flies. (Photo by Shi Tang/Getty Images)
Making the victory all the more amazing was that Davis failed to qualify for the main draw in the first place, but still got in as one of three lucky losers after a pre-tournament withdrawal.
She next goes on to face Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round, while the other match in this section of the draw sees a rematch of last year’s semi-final between Serena Williams and Julia Görges.
Williams, who is currently enduring her longest title drought, is now the favourite to reach the quarter-final from this part of the draw and looms as Barty’s major obstacle on her path to the title.
The pair would have met in the fourth round at Roland Garros last month, only for the 37-year-old to be beaten in the third round by compatriot Sofia Kenin.
Meanwhile, in the men’s draw, heavyweights Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal progressed, with the latter exorcising the demons of his loss to Nick Kyrgios five years ago with an entertaining four-set win on Centre Court.
So much has been spoken about the rift between Nadal and Kyrgios, which escalated earlier this year after the Australian saved a match point to defeat the Spaniard at Acapulco en route to winning the title.
You could also argue that the rift goes much deeper than that. You’ll remember that, in their first professional meeting five years ago, the then-19-year-old ranked 144th in the world pulled off an upset for the ages against the then-world No.1.
The rematch had just about everything you could ask for – great rallies, hard hitting and the odd Kyrgios dummy spit.
After the pair split the first two sets, the Spaniard took the next two in tiebreaks – marking the first time he’d won a tiebreaker against Kyrgios – to progress to the third round, where he will now meet Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
It will be their first meeting at a major since a relatively unknown Tsonga stunned the tennis world by thrashing Nadal in straight sets to reach his first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in 2008. It will also be their first meeting anywhere since 2015 when Tsonga won in Shanghai.
Federer, on the other hand, defeated Jay Clarke in straight sets and progressed to a third round clash against another Frenchman, Lucas Pouille.
There were also emotional scenes as Marcos Baghdatis bowed out of professional tennis after going down to Italian 17th seed Matteo Berrettini in straight sets and falling just short of a 350th career match victory.
After receiving a wildcard into the main draw, the 34-year-old defeated Canadian lucky loser Brayden Schnur in his first match before running into the 23-year-old, who won his third career title in Stuttgart last month.
Baghdatis leaves the game as one of the sport’s favourite characters, having won four ATP titles as well as reaching the Australian Open final in 2006 and peaking at No.8 in the rankings, earning himself a large legion of fans in the process.
While he remains best known for his run to the final at Melbourne Park 13 years ago, many will never forget the gut-wrenching five-set defeat he suffered against Lleyton Hewitt at the 2008 Australian Open in a match that started close to midnight and finished after 4.30am.
2017 finalist Marin Cilic and last year’s semi-finalist John Isner also both bid farewell to the All England Club for another 12 months with losses to Joao Sousa and Mikhail Kukushkin respectively.
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