Azarenka overcomes Watson
Originally published on 07/07/17 00:00
The former world No.1 elevated her game in the latter stages of the deciding set to silence the Centre Crowd crowd and continue her impressive comeback. It was a tenacious display from Watson but she will be disappointed that she failed to capitalise on a promising start.
It was the British No.2 who enjoyed the better of the early exchanges. Her backhand was especially dangerous and Azarenka looked uneasy and unsure. Watson gave the spectators plenty to cheer as she convincingly claimed the opener by six games to three.
Azarenka responded well in the second set and quickly halted Watson’s momentum. The Belarusian, one of the best returners in the game, was constantly involved in her opponent’s service games and the pressure soon told.
Watson’s weaker wing, her forehand, had looked suspect in the second set and it was still an issue in the decider. She continued to scrap but it was the experience of Azarenka that proved to be the difference at critical moments.
“That was not an easy match,” admitted the two-time Grand Slam winner. ‘She [Heather] is a crowd favourite and she is really inspired here. I felt that the whole match I was on the back foot but in the second set I started to step in a little bit.
“I still feel like I need to clean up my game a little bit but I’m very happy I stayed tough in the important moments and took my opportunities. These are the matches that you are looking for, to find a way when not everything goes great. I’m very happy to have found some other way to win today."
Johanna Konta made sure there was British representation in the fourth round as she swept past Maria Sakkari 6-4 6-1.
It was an authoritative display from the No.6 seed as she overcame her inexperienced opponent without dropping serve. “I’m very happy with that,” admitted Konta after booking her spot in the second week.
"It was quite tricky conditions out there and it wasn’t easy for either of us, so I’m just really happy to have taken care of the simple things – like competing hard and leaving no stone unturned. Everyone is a potential winner here so I’m hopefully going to be involved until the very end, but it’s just one match at a time."
Caroline Garcia sauntered into the fourth round for the first time after a comprehensive 6-4 6-3 victory over Madison Brengle. The attack-minded Frenchwoman, who will play Konta next, has yet to concede a set in the tournament.
There was delight for another young player. 19-year-old Ana Konjuh, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open last year, upset the No.8 seed, Dominika Cibulkova, 7-6(3) 3-6 6-4 in two hours and 36 minutes.
Elsewhere on the grounds, Elina Svitolina eased into the second week after a 6-1 7-5 success over Carina Witthoeft. The No.4 seed has been thrilled with her progress: “I'm very, very proud of myself because just a couple weeks before, there were some doubts about my Achilles,” said the Ukrainian.
“I did not even think that I could make it to the fourth round – especially here where I felt very uncomfortable. I'm playing well and it's very special for me to be here.”
Svitolina will challenge the French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, in the round of sixteen. The Latvian defeated another big-hitter, Camila Giorgi, 7-5 7-5. Venus Williams is also safely through after a 7-6(3) 6-4 win over Naomi Osaka.