Muguruza, Cilic stunned at Wimbledon
The shocks at the World Cup have made their way over to Wimbledon, with defending women’s champion Garbine Muguruza and last year’s men’s finalist Marin Cilic the latest casualties in the second round.
In fading light on a scorching Thursday in southwest London, Muguruza was sent packing by a player who had never before collected a top-10 win, Alison Van Uytvanck, 5-7 6-2 6-1. Furthermore, the 47th-ranked Belgian had only ever tallied one main draw win at Wimbledon in five previous trips.
Muguruza’s fellow third seed Cilic blew a two-set lead and fell to world No. 82 Guido Pella of Argentina 3-6 1-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 hours before the Spaniard’s exit. Prior to this week, Pella hadn’t won a main draw match at the All England Club.
Not since Steffi Graf in 1994 has the defending women’s Wimbledon champion failed to reach at least the third round.
“I think she played big today,” Muguruza told reporters. “She took a lot of risk and it worked for her. I also think that my level today was not where I wanted it to be. That’s also why she could develop that kind of level.
“But it’s a little bit sad because I wanted to really go out there.”
The Spaniard went out on Court 2, modest when compared to the two main show courts, and Muguruza admitted she would have preferred to compete on a grander court.
Yet would the outcome have been different?
Van Uytvanck recovered from surrendering a break lead in the first set. Her serve, one of the biggest in the women’s game, clicked in the final two sets as she claimed two-thirds of all her service points. Muguruza glared at her racket and muttered in frustration as her errors climbed.
Van Uytvanck duly served out the encounter with ease, despite saying she was “dying” inside.
“Confidence was there. I’m playing well the last couple of days, so that’s what I took with me on the court,” said Van Uytvanck, twice a titlist on the WTA tour. “In set two and three I was just there mentally.
“I was in the zone and just hitting every ball, and it was going my way.”
Cilic’s match resumed following rain Wednesday with Pella leading by a break at 4-3 in the third and incredibly, he never lost the momentum. Five years ago at Wimbledon, he experienced much different emotions, stretchered off with a leg injury in a fifth set.
“Today when we came back, obviously he served two good service games in that third set, came back two sets to one,” Cilic told reporters. “Obviously a little bit different situation.”
Cilic said a slip on the grass Wednesday didn’t affect him, nor the pressure of being one of the men’s favorites.
“I was just not feeling as comfortable as yesterday with hitting,” he said. “I was not as accurate. I was just missing some balls, some easy balls, giving him a chance to come back. That was playing a part.
“It was not just the pressure. It was me not executing on the court well.”
Muguruza and Cilic’s departures followed losses by pre-tournament women’s favorite Petra Kvitova, former champion Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki, although the Dane faced the ever dangerous Ekaterina Makarova. Six of the women’s top 10 seeds are already gone.
Cilic had defeated Novak Djokovic to win a Wimbledon warmup in London last month and the players to have toppled the 29-year-old on his last five visits to SW19 are among the best performers tennis has ever produced: Andy Murray, Djokovic (twice) and Roger Federer (twice).
Even though Federer downed Cilic in the 2017 finale, he’ll be relieved to see the 2014 US Open winner leave from his half of the draw.
In their last six matches, Cilic won one and four went to a deciding set, including this year’s Australian Open final. The blowout last year at Wimbledon could be attributed to Cilic’s foot blisters. Indeed the way the draw is shaping up, 2016 finalist Milos Raonic figures to play Federer in the last four.
Cilic will probably be asking himself for days how he lost to Pella. Pella himself seemed surprised at his mammoth victory.
“Well, I was looking for this match for years, but I never expected it to be here in Wimbledon against Cilic,” said Pella, whose sister Catalina is ranked 300th on the women’s tour. “That was the biggest surprise for me, because this is the third time I come here, the first time I win a single match in the main draw, and it was a big surprise.
“But I’m really, really happy, because I prepare myself very good to this tournament.”
Yes, Wednesday’s pause gave the 28-year-old a sliver of hope but Cilic still led by two sets. And the Croat relinquished a 3-1 lead in the fourth. In the turning point of the fifth, Pella saved three break points at 2-2.
Serving second in the decider, Cilic eventually cracked, especially his less steady forehand wing.
Although Cilic saved two match points at 4-5 with thunderous serves, there was no such respite at 5-6 and Pella completed the job thanks to a forehand into the net from his opponent.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to reaching a first Wimbledon quarterfinal since 2011 when he saw off the big-hitting Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4 6-3 6-4.
The match was relatively straightforward for the 17-time grand slam winner, although he received a pair of time violation warnings from a chair umpire he has clashed with in the past, Carlos Bernardes.
Nadal and the chair ump
Three years ago in Rio, Bernardes, said Nadal, forced him to change his shorts — which were upside down — on court instead of somewhere more private.
“I make a mistake, I put my shorts the other way,” Nadal said. “You cannot force me to change my shorts in front of everybody, you know. For me, that’s not respectful.”
Nadal however had no major problems with Thursday’s rulings by Bernardes.
Three-time champion Djokovic also progressed in straight sets, 6-1 6-2 6-3 over Pella’s compatriot, Horacio Zeballos, even after hurting his knee in the third set.
“I’ve been doing checkups now,” said the rejuvenated Djokovic. “It seems like it’s nothing major. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll see on the practice session how it feels. Hopefully it’s going to be fine.”
The Serb, in a rarity, was placed on Court 2 for the first time in about a decade. He wasn’t fussed.
Nick Kyrgios struck 19 aces in downing Robin Haase 6-3 6-4 7-5 but was hit with a code violation by chair umpire James Keothavong, which might have been for bad language, reported AAP.
Keothavong, at one stage, also left his chair to explain the foot fault rule to the 15th seed after he had been called for multiple foot faults. A Kyrgios duel against another Australian who has courted controversy, Bernard Tomic, won’t materialize after the lucky loser lost to 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in four sets.
Women’s French Open winner Simona Halep avoided being upset. The Romanian won the last 10 games of her match with Zheng Saisai to advance 7-5 6-3 while qualifier Eugenie Bouchard will leave Wimbledon with momentum despite a 6-4 7-5 loss to Ash Barty in a battle of former Wimbledon junior champions.
Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist, won four straight matches at any level for the first time since 2016.