September 25, 2022

Oith her 37-plus match winning streak, Iga Swiatek remains a hot favorite to lift the women’s singles trophy here on Saturday week after losing 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove on Thursday. But the fact that the No. 1 seed has given up only her third set since March – and to an opponent who only qualified as a lucky loser – should give her rivals hope that a player who has seemingly forgotten how losing may not quite be like armor. -plated as she looks.

Swiatek was quite comfortable in the first set but his forehand disappeared in the second. She briefly adjourned to the locker room to regroup before returning to break Pattinama Kerkhove’s serve in the fourth and ninth games of the third. The loss of this second set is added to the one she conceded to Zheng Qinwen at Roland-Garros and another to Liudmila Samsonova in Stuttgart.

While the Polish No. 1 is still the bookmakers’ favourite, she’s not quite a chance yet, which means there are two ways to think about her chances of following her French Open triumph on last month. On the one hand, Swiatek is the likeliest winner. On the other hand, the bet always implies that at some point in the next nine days someone is likely to beat her.

Ons Jabeur, who knocked out Swiatek in the fourth round last year, is a real danger for the top seed. Jelena Ostapenko, who is 3-0 in her career against Swiatek, including a win on grass, is another. And for much of her second-round match against Ana Bogdan, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova looked like a contender for her third title.

Kvitova left in the form that took her to the title at Eastbourne earlier this month. The raw power of her forehand, a key part of her championships here in 2011 and 2014, hasn’t diminished: Bogdan couldn’t even find the start of a response as Kvitova’s groundstrokes found the lines and his serve went straight into high gear. From the Romanian’s end of the pitch, her Czech opponent’s six-foot frame must have seemed to grow every minute.

But having dropped just three points in her first three service games, Kvitova had to save three break points amid six deuces and two double faults before securing the set 6-1. And if that match raised some questions about the 25th seed’s killer instincts, a more ominous wobble was to follow. From 5-1 in the second, Bogdan clinched five in a row as his opponent failed to serve him twice.

Bogdan was shooting at his opponent’s feet and several of Kvitova’s attempts to return them looked almost embarrassed as they fell into the net. But an ace that crashed through the middle helped stabilize the ship on Bogdan’s set point at 5-6, and the big forehand, missing in action for much of the previous 20 minutes, made a reappearance. timely to stifle another moments set point. later.

Petra Kvitova showed signs of her best form against Ana Bogdan, as well as some less impressive spells. Photograph: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Her balance now somewhat recovered, Kvitova beat the tie-break and with it the match, but there was as much relief as celebration in the process.

“I think it was a great game until 5-1, 5-2,” she said. “Suddenly I felt so drained from the matches I had. I don’t know, it was just hard to describe. I got a little tight and she just went a little further. She didn’t not missed. It was really hard to close it.

“I really thought that probably [there would] be a third set, which I didn’t even do for the tie-break. Finally I succeeded, I don’t know how. I’m just glad it’s done, of course.

Kvitova’s championship credentials will come under another stern test in the third round, where No. 4 seed Paula Badosa awaits after a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 loss to Irina Bara.

“I just practiced [with] in Eastbourne before the start of the tournament,” Kvitova said. “It was a good practice, quite aggressive on both sides. That’s what I’m going to be ready for for sure, big serves, good returns. But I still think she prefers hard courts and clay than grass. I hope that might be a bit my advantage.

Simona Halep, the 2019 champion, also reached the third round, beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-4, but another seemingly plausible contender failed to clear the second hurdle as Bianca Andreescu, the winner of the US Open in 2019 which was plagued by injury, losing in straight sets to No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina.

In the final match of the day on center court, Coco Guff easily beat Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2, 6-3 to set up a third-round match with fellow American Amanda Anisimova.

Gauff, who exploded onto the world stage in 2019 when, aged 15, she reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, broke Buzarnescu’s serve in the fourth match and rocketed 122mph to win the fifth, the fastest serve to date in the women’s tournament. .

The French Open runner-up broke Buzarnescu again to close the set in 31 minutes and closed the match with another ace.