Wimbledon 2019: Women's field remains wide open after another day of highs and lows

It’s telling that eight out of the last nine Grand Slams have been won by a different champion and, on account of the opening three days here at the All England Club, it’d come as no surprise to see this theme continue

Samuel Lovett
Wimbledon
Wednesday 03 July 2019 21:43
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Wimbledon Championships in numbers

The unpredictability which has characterised the women’s game over the past two years is showing no sign of fading at these Wimbledon Championships. Big names have fallen, favourites underwhelmed and plucky underdogs thrilled.

It’s telling that eight out of the last nine Grand Slams have been won by a different champion and, on account of the opening three days here at the All England Club, it’d come as no surprise to see this theme continue.

Karolina Pliskova has long been thought of as a Grand Slam champion-in-waiting. And having hurtled past Monica Puig 6-0 6-4 in the second round, the Czech showed why she stands as one of the front runners for this year’s Wimbledon crown.

“I feel like I’m improving every day on grass,” said Pliskova, who arrived at Wimbledon full of confidence after scooping her third WTA title on grass at Eastbourne last week.

“The title in Eastbourne helped me feel more confident and to get more used to the surface.”

Pliskova dropped just two points on serve as she zoomed through the first set in 20 minutes. Puig offered more resistance in the second, breaking her opponent in the ninth game, but it was to make little different to the outcome of this match.

It was a very different afternoon for Simona Halep, though, who laboured to a 6-3 4-6 6-2 victory against Mihaela Buzarnescu.

This was the second encounter between the two Romanians, with a 16-year-old Halep comfortably claiming victory when they first met in Italy in 2008.

This was an altogether different affair, with an animated and resilient Buzarnescu taking the game to her younger rival.

Although Halep’s consistency eventually saw her to victory – she made 16 unforced errors compared to her opponent’s 38 – it was Buzarnescu who caught the eye.

Thumping cross-court winners; stinging forehand shots down the line; and a never-say-die attitude that endeared her to those who had turned out to watch the spectacle on Court Two – Buzarnescu delivered a show on her way to defeat.

It was a result that reaffirmed doubts over Halep’s Wimbledon credentials. The Romanian has struggled for form on the grass courts of the All England Club – having made it as far as the last four in 2014 where she lost to Genie Bouchard – and it was similar story against Buzarnescu. Halep struggled at times to deal with her rival’s aggression and lacked variety in her game plan, preferring to scurry back and forth across the baseline.

On the back of such a display, and with others performing to far greater and more clinical levels, the 2018 French Open champion has much work to do if she’s to venture into the latter stages of this year’s Championships.

Whereas Halep underwhelmed, America’s Cori Gauff once again defied all expectation in crushing Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets.

After her exploits against Venus Williams, the 15-year-old took it up another gear here at the Championships. It was a masterclass display from the American, whose explosive power, intelligent shot-making and relentless will to win consigned an opponent 15 years her senior to a 6-3 6-3 defeat in one hour and nine minutes.

An experienced grass-court player, Rybarikova looked to deploy a variety of creative shots – angled forehands, cushioned drop shots, serve-and-volleys – in an attempt to out smart the teenager. But it was ultimately in vain. Riding a wave of confidence from the off, Gauff had an answer to nearly every one of her opponent’s questions. It was a complete performance from the youngster and one that reaffirms her status as one of the game’s most exciting prospects.

Halep is through to the third round of Wimbledon

”I’m still shocked I am even here,” Gauff said afterwards. “I played well on pressure points, she was serving amazing. I’ve not been able to relax, there is so much going on.

“I believe I can beat anyone across the court.”

Elsewhere, Caroline Wozniacki, who has never made it past the fourth round, beat unseeded Russian Veronika Kudermetova. The Dane, seeded 14, needed a tie-break in the first set and went on to win 7-6 (5) 6-3.

And there was disappointment for home hopeful Heather Watson, who let an opportunity to match her best showing at Wimbledon slip from her grasp.

The British No 2 made an impressive start against 20th seed Anett Kontaveit, but faded badly and bowed out 7-5 6-1 in an hour and 14 minutes.

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