Kiki Bertens was “kind of proud” of herself. She had just reached the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time in her life and she had had to repel a rampant Venus Williams to do it.
For two hours and 40 minutes Bertens battled for all she was worth. Sometimes she was in control, sometimes she could not hide her disappointment as Williams clawed her way back. But for most of the third set, it was a titanic struggle with both women at their best. And it was Bertens who edged the victory on her third match point 6-2, 6-7(5), 8-6.
“I can still not really believe it,” she said. “It was such a tough match and such a big fight. It was tough because I played her in Miami and had a few match points and I lost. Of course that was going through my mind sometimes. But I was like – OK, keep on going for it. This is Wimbledon, third round, you’ve never reached the fourth round before so you’ve nothing to lose so just keep going for your shots.
“It’s really tough for me to play on the grass, to play aggressive, but that was really the key today. I did it really well so I’m kind of proud of myself.”
It’s a curious anomaly of Karolina Pliskova’s career that as she prepared to celebrate one of her most notable achievements she also experienced one of her more frustrating results. The Czech rose to world No.1 in the week after last year's Championships, even thoughshe had been shocked in the second round.
A year on, the No.7 seed at last seems to be setting things right.
Already achieving a career-best performance by reaching the third round, following five consecutive second round losses, Pliskova improved that record as she defeated Mihaela Buzarenscu 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 to book her place in the last 16.
As more highly seeded rivals in the bottom half of the draw falter, Serena Williams remains resolute. After a 7-5, 7-6(2) defeat of Kristina Mladenovic, the great American’s quest for an eighth Wimbledon singles title and record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title will safely continue into the second week.
Soon after a pair of aces sealed a hard-fought victory in one hour, 49 minutes, Williams reminded her interviewer that this was just her second “serious” tournament back. The first, Roland-Garros, ended with a pectoral muscle injury after just three matches. For the oldest woman left in the singles draw, this one rolls on.
“Why are so many seeds out at Wimbledon already?” the BBC asked on its website on Friday morning.
How about fatique after a long clay season and a turbo-charged grass season? That may have been at the root of early exits by Petra Kvitova, Dominic Thiem, and Caroline Wozniacki. Finally, the BBC wondered, with so little separating one player from the next, should we even care about seedings in the first place?
We definitely don’t need to care about them on the women’s side right now. By Thursday, six of the top eight WTA seeds had departed, and No.9 and 10, Venus Williams and Madison Keys (above), were sent packing on Friday. That leaves just Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova among the top tier - as well as, of course, No.25 Serena Williams, who may now be the favourite to win her eighth Wimbledon despite hardly playing at all for the last year and a half.
A Gutsy performance from both sides