WIMBLEDON, England – When Angelique Kerber took the first set of the Wimbledon quarterfinals on Tuesday, the crowd at full capacity greeted the achievement with cheers that bounced off the closed roof at the No. 1 court.
Kerber’s reaction? Just a straight, serious walk to the touchline. No screaming or jumping or punching. Unlike the other women who made their way to the All England Club semi-finals, this is nothing new to her. Not at all, it’s just that it’s been a while.
Owner of three Grand Slam titles, including at Wimbledon in 2018, Kerber returned to the last four on the older grass court using her knee-to-grass agility and quick reflexes to beat No. 19, seeded Karolina Muchova 6- 2, 6-3.
“I remember how I played here,” said Kerber, a 33-year-old left-hander from Germany, waving her fists as she finished her victory. “I know how to play on (a) grass court.”
Next is No. 25 seed Kerber faces No. 1 Ash Barty, who knocked out Ajla Tomljanovic, No. 75, 6-1, 6-3, in the first quarter-final of an Australian major in 40 years.
“It’s the ultimate test,” Barty said, looking toward Thursday’s showdown. “Angie has obviously been successful here before.”
Barty won the 2019 French Open, but had never been to the All England Club quarterfinals. In fact, this was the first time in the Open era, which began in 1968, that the tournament featured six women’s quarterfinals for the first time.
Only Kerber and Muchova, who also lost at this stage in 2019, boasted of past experience.
The other semifinal is No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka against No. 8 Karolina Pliskova.
Sabalenka scored her 34th win on the 2021 tour by defeating No. 21 Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-3, and Pliskova edged out non-seeded Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 6-2.
This was the first day at 100% capacity in the two main stadiums after COVID-19 restrictions put a 50% cap on attendance when the fortnight began. With rain falling much of the afternoon, singles matches were played on Center Court and No. 1 Court with the roofs closed and spectators unmasked – the All England Club says the arena’s ventilation systems allow them be considered outdoor locations.
Pliskova, a 2016 US Open finalist behind Kerber, claimed 24 of 26 points on her serve down one stretch, hitting eight aces and saving the only three break opportunities she faced.
“Everything worked out pretty well today,” said Pliskova, who averaged 106.5 mph in her first serves, 20.5 mph faster than Golubic.
Pliskova has broken only three times in five matches so far and has not lost a single set.
He also hasn’t played anyone higher than 47th yet.
Now comes a test.
Jabeur’s game is full of novelties and nuances, with drop shots and all kinds of angles and effects.
Sabalenka? She’s all about power and big cuts to the ball, and even with that consistently aggressive style, she managed to rack up more winners, 27, than unforced errors, 20.
“He played,” said Jabeur of Tunisia, “the game of his life.”
Sabalenka, a 23-year-old Belarusian, had not made it past the fourth round in any major before.
But she agreed that hers was a “great performance.”
“I still have this chance to win a slam,” Sabalenka said. “I will do everything I can to achieve my goal.”
In the only men’s game of the day, No. 14 seed Hubert Hurkacz returned to No. 2 Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 at the restart. from a fourth-round match suspended Monday night.
The first quarter-finals of a Hurkacz Grand Slam will meet 20-time Major champion Roger Federer on Wednesday.
Kerber was arguably the best known and most accomplished of the women left in the draw when it began Tuesday.
And now he’s in his eighth Grand Slam semi-final, with half at Wimbledon. The most recent came three years ago, when she defeated Serena Williams for the championship.
Kerber extended his current winning streak to 10 matches, including a title at a grass-court set-up in Germany last month, and his first-round outings on the hard courts of the Australian Open in February and the red clay of the French Open. in May they seem to have spent an eternity.
“I never stopped believing in myself (and) how I can play,” said Kerber, like Pliskova, a former No. 1.
Kerber’s play upset Muchova in the same way as 17-year-old American Coco Gauff in the fourth round, with shots aimed so fast, flat on the ground and flat.
“He plays good angles. It was a great game on his side,” said Muchova, who covered her head with a towel while sitting up during changes. “So it definitely didn’t help me.”
Kerber only compiled 15 winners, but that was enough because he limited Muchova to just two forehand winners, compared to 33 unforced or forced errors combined with that hit.
Muchova seemed to at least give himself a chance to turn things around by breaking to lead 2-1 in the second set. But Kerber, as firm if unspectacular, snapped back when Muchova landed a long forehand to cap off a 13-hit exchange.
That was more or less that.