LONDON – A dispatch from the Best Day in Tennis, Wimbledon’s second Monday. With all 32 remaining players in action, herewith brief observations from all 16 15 matches (since the fourth round match between Novak Djokovic and Adrian Mannarino was postponed until Tuesday).
• Jelena Ostapenko is one those play-till-dark athletes. Not content with winning one major, she is suddenly three matches from the summer double, beating Elina Svitolina on her eighth match point to reach the quarters. (Kim Clijsters in 2005 was the last WTA player to win a major then reach the quarterfinals of the next one.) Ostapenko is now in the top ten.
• Lost in the Venus longevity story, Svetlana Kuznetsova won the U.S. Open 13 years ago. Here she is at age 32 still reaching the business end of Slams. Tallying 37 winners in just 18 games, she beat Aga Radwanska 6-2, 6-4.
• Maybe the punters know more than we give them credit for. Entering the second week, the women’s favorite was Jo Konta, a local player, but a local player who had won one career Wimbledon match (over Monica Puig) before this year. To the delight of the Court One she outlasted Caroline Garcia in three sets to become the first British woman to reach the quarters since Jo Durie in 1984.
• When No. 87 Magdalena Rybarikova beat pre-tournament favorite and No. 3-seed Karolina Plisova last week, it marked a sizable upset. Seems less so now, as Rybarikova beat Petra Martic for her best Slam result.
• Garbine Muguruza has played her best matches in recent memory at Wimbledon and offered an extended glimpse of why her results over the last year have been so disappointing. On Monday, she didn’t just defeat top-seeded Angelique Kerber, she out-battled her, winning a tremendously entertaining fight, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. One offshoot: we’ll have a new No. 1 player when the new WTA rankings come out next week.
• Venus Williams had already reached a Grand Slam final before her opponent on Monday, Ana Konjuh, was born. Venus didn’t bring her veteran savvy to bear on Monday; she somehow looked younger and fresher than her 19-year-old challenger on the other side of the net. She gets Ostapenko is next.
• Who says defense beats offense? Continuing her serving assault and grass court play under Pat Cash, CoCo Vandeweghe took out Caroline Wozniacki (0 aces) 7-6, 6-4 to reach the quarters. Her opponent: Rybarikova, who took her out in the first round at the French Open this year.
• There are now no moms left in the draw as Simona Halep beat Victoria Azarenka in straight sets. So much for any concerns that Halep would be damaged from her inability to close out the French Open final. The Romanian is now the highest seed remaining.
• Is there a player blazing a quieter trail than Marin Cilic? The Croatian made his fourth straight Wimbledon quarterfinal, beating Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in roughly the same time it will take you to read this sentence. Cilic has yet to drop a set.
• In a flip-a-coin men’s match between two of the hardest servers, Kevin Anderson and Sam Querrey exchanged tracer fire for five sets. Querrey squandered match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker. To his credit—and a sign of his continuing evolution—he rallied to win 5-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3. It was his second-straight five-set win and he now gets….
• Andy Murray, who beat still another quirky opponent—the prodigiously bearded Frenchman Benoit Paire—mostly by playing a tighter match than his opponent. Showing no sign of the hip injury that was supposed to compromise his defense campaign, the top seed had little trouble reaching the quarters for the tenth straight time and the 24th time in his last 26 Slams.
• You can’t spell Thiem with T-I-M-E and he needs lots of it to set up his extravagant shots. Grass is always going to be a tough surface for him. After reaching round four, his deepest run here, Thiem was upended by Tomas Berdych, a former finalist.
• Facing Roger Federer is equally awesome and fearsome for all players. But imagine you’re Grigor Dimitrov. Your entire career you’re compared to Federer. It’s just that you do everything a little less well. For the sixth time (against no defeats) Federer beat his beta version, advancing on Centre Court 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes.
• Milos Raonic reached the Wimbledon final last year. His failure to close with the title, though, caused a rupture that went unhealed for months. The Canadian is now three matches from redemption. While he hasn’t won a title of any size in 18 months, he’s back playing lawnmower man on the grass. On Monday, a game from defeat, he took out Sascha Zverev in five sets 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. Zverev is a dazzlingly talented player; but until his legs get stronger, he will struggle in five setters.
• In the match of the tournament, Gilles Muller, age 34, scores the win of his career beating Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13. Yes, those last digits are correct. Two lefties in their 30s battled for 4:47. Nadal stormed back win the third and fourth sets. But Muller, serving first in the fifth set, applied constant service pressure, and finally broke in 28th game. Muller was seeded 16th—almost half his ranking—because of his grasscout prowess. We now see why.