LONDON: Simona Halep was supposedly having a ‘chill’ year, but for a little over an hour on Wimbledon’s Centre Court the ice-cool Romanian was on fire as she swatted aside Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-1 on Friday to reach the fourth round.
That statistic was all the more remarkable considering Azarenka, ranked 40th in the world, had broken in the fourth game of the first set to take a 3-1 lead, a commanding advantage that was comprehensively erased as the seventh-ranked Halep won six straight games. The Belarusian’s frustrations boiled over as she slammed her racket into the turf, receiving a code violation from the umpire, before she fell to her knees with head in hands after smacking a simple put-away into the net.
Azarenka, who had dispatched her second-round opponent by winning 12 consecutive games, made only one further mark on the scoreboard against Halep, to level at 1-1 in the second set, before the Romanian put her foot to the floor to win five games on the bounce. She brought up three match points with a precise midcourt dropshot and, after spurning the first, put Azarenka out of her on-court misery, when the Belarusian netted a return. Next up for Halep is a potentially mouth-watering clash with Cori Gauff, providing the 15-year-old American can get past Polona Hercog.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic dropped his first set of the tournament but had few problems after that, advancing to the fourth round at Wimbledon with a 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4 win over Hubert Hurkacz. Hurkacz had never even reached the third round of a Grand Slam tournament before but matched Djokovic shot by shot in a tense second set which featured some mesmerizing rallies and spectacular winners from both players. But the unseeded Polish player couldn’t keep it up, and Djokovic won the third set in only 25 minutes. He then broke for a 2-1 lead in the fourth and sealed the victory with a service winner on his first match point. Last year’s runner-up at Wimbledon came up against the same player who eliminated the previous runner-up at Wimbledon. Fourth-seeded Kevin Anderson, a tall South African who lost to Novak Djokovic in last year’s final, was beaten by 26th-seeded Guido Pella 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Friday on Centre Court in the third round.
Pella beat 2017 Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic in the second round last year — after losing the opening two sets. The 29-year-old Argentine will be playing in the fourth round at a major tournament for the first time when he faces 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic. Anderson converted only one of his nine break points against Pella.
Raonic, who lost to Andy Murray in the 2016 Wimbledon final, reached the fourth round by beating unseeded American Reilly Opelka 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-1. The 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) Opelka was making his Wimbledon debut and knocked out three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round.
In the women’s draw, two former No. 1s advanced to the fourth round and another two lost in the third round. Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova defeated Hsieh Su-wei 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, while 14th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki lost to Zhang Shuai 6-4, 6-2. In a match between two former top-ranked players, Simona Halep beat Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-1 on Centre Court.
Wozniacki was leading 4-0 in the first set and also broke Zhang in the opening game of the second before losing four straight games. The Dane repeatedly grew frustrated with the result of Hawk-Eye challenges, complaining to the chair umpire on several occasions that the calls made by the review system were wrong.