Wimbledon women's quarterfinal preview: Three Americans in action
LONDON – With the exception of the Novak Djokovic-Kevin Anderson fourth round match that was suspended for light on Monday night, Tuesday on Day 8 at Wimbledon will feature four women's quarterfinals matchups, including three Americans in Serena Williams, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe. Djokovic and Anderson will resume play as the first match on the No. 1 Court at 1 p.m. local time. The full television and broadcast schedule can be found here. Full order of play for Tuesday can be found here.
Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka
Serena leads their head-to-head 16-3 but there's something about the match-up against Azarenka that puts her on edge. Azarenka has quietly marched through her draw with ease. She has yet to lose a set or lose more than four games in a single set, booking her quarterfinal spot with a 6–2, 6–3 win over No. 30 Belinda Bencic on Monday. A two-time semifinalist at Wimbledon, the former No. 1 has pushed Serena to the brink in their last two matches. During the clay season, Azarenka had match points and could've handed Serena her first loss of the year in Madrid. Then at the French Open, she led by a set and a break before losing 3–6, 6–4, 6–2 in the third round.
"The key is for me, I still need to find it because I haven't beat her in the Grand Slam," Azarenka said. "So for me, I still have to find that extra step to go a little bit further."
"I've had a couple of tough matches with Victoria," Serena said. "It doesn't matter who I play, I'm going to be ready. I'm going to have to be ready. She's due to win big and to do really well. Incidentally, so am I."
Serena is coming off her best performance of the tournament, a 6–4, 6–3 win over her sister Venus. Every aspect of Serena's game was firing on Monday and she showed why, even if she has not made it past the quarterfinals since 2012, she is always the favorite at Wimbledon. She fired 10 aces and 36 winners to just 13 unforced errors against Venus. Her return game, which should decide her match-up against Azarenka, was on fire. She got 70% of her returns back in play, zinging five for clean winners.
Madison Keys vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
With no top ten seeds remaining in the bottom half of the draw, Tuesday offers up a big opportunity for Keys to reach her second Slam semifinal of the year. To do it, she'll need to exact some revenge on Radwanska, who handed her one of the most heart-breaking losses of her young career, a 7–5, 4–6, 6–3 defeat in the third round here two years ago. "I can close my eyes and I'm back on that court," Keys told SI.com last year. "Why did I hit that backhand down the line?!?! Why! I should have gone cross court! Why!"
Radwanska was seeded No. 4 then but at this year's tournament she's dropped down to No. 13. Meanwhile, Keys was an unseeded teenager two years ago. Now she's up to No. 21 and her run to the Australian Open semifinal, where she beat both Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams, has cemented her status as one of the game's rising stars. Both women love the grass, with Radwanska making the final in 2012 and Keys winning her only WTA title in Eastbourne last year. This will be a contrast of styles, with Keys' big hitting going up against Radwanska's variety.
"I think she's an incredible fighter," Keys said. "She is a great mover, and her hands are unbelievable. I feel like she's always there. She makes you play four extra balls. She's a really tough opponent."
Maria Sharapova vs. CoCo Vandeweghe
CoCo Vandeweghe has been a lawnmower through her first four matches at Wimbledon. The unseeded American is into her first Slam quarterfinal with straight set wins over three seeds: No. 11 Karolina Pliskova, No. 22 Sam Stosur and then, most impressively, No. 6 Lucie Safarova on Monday. Funny thing is, Vandeweghe thought she played her worst match against Safarova, which she won 7–6, 7–6.
"I didn't really feel that good," Vandeweghe said. "I thought it was one of my worst matches that I played the whole tournament so far. Serve was kind of in and out. I mean, it was there when I needed it, especially towards the end. But I think it was more my court positioning early on. I thought I was too far back, letting her dictate instead of making her feel my presence."
The 23-year-old American has never been short on that kind of moxie. Armed with a powerful serve and heavy groundstrokes, the weapons have always been there. But questions about her fitness and foot-speed have been a cloud over an otherwise bright prospect in the American ranks. Vandeweghe described them as "demons" which she finally faced head-on after taking a three-set loss to No. 171 Risa Ozaki in the first round of Acapulco qualifying last year.
"That was when I definitely kicked myself in the butt and said, 'Hey, you know, this isn't where I want to be,'" she said. "This isn't what I want to be doing. I don't want to be losing to this caliber of player any longer. I had lost first round in qualifying, and I put myself in a situation where I lost it not because of my tennis but because of my mental fortitude and also my fitness.
"That was really concerning for me as a person. So when I got back home, I really sat down, planned out everything that I was going to do moving forward."
That planning involved revamping her diet and fitness regimen. Gone are the In-N-Out burgers that are a staple of any proper Southern California resident. Fitter and stronger, Vandeweghe has more faith in her ability to rally and be patient, and her backhand in particular was a surprising weapon against Safarova.
This will be the first meeting between Vandeweghe and Sharapova. Seeded No. 4, Sharapova has moved through the draw with no concerns. She has not lost a set en route to her first Wimbledon quarterfinal since 2011. If Vandeweghe has a good serving day, she'll be a very tough out for Sharapova. The winner will play either Serena or Azarenka.
Garbine Muguruza vs. Timea Bacsinszky
Both women are playing their first Wimbledon quarterfinal and for Muguruza, this is an opportunity to break through to make her first Slam semifinal. That it might come turf is the biggest surprise for the Spaniard. When she was asked about her game on grass she said she still finds the surface a bit "weird." But she has shown in her last two matches just how well her big hitting game translates to the surface. She beat No. 10 Angelique Kerber in three sets and then followed it up with a 6–4, 6–4 win over No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki on Monday.
Muguruza and Bacsinszky have played just once, with the Spaniard prevailing in a 6–3, 4–6, 6–0 win at the Australian Open this year. Bacsinszky, a French Open semifinalist last month, plays a smart game that can be very tricky for offensive players. Her slices and drop-shots are perfect for the low-bouncing grass and Muguruza will have to work hard mentally not get frustrated.