Pliskova falls to Muchova in marathon match
LONDON: Rafael Nadal had plenty to grumble about during the first week of Wimbledon. He was irritated at being seeded third at the grasscourt major despite his status as world number two and he was left exasperated when the draw put him on a second-round collision course with Australian hot-head Nick Kyrgios – a player who thrives on rubbing Nadal up the wrong way. Those setbacks have well and truly fired up the Spaniard and it was poor Joao Sousa who felt the full force of Nadal’s fury yesterday during a 6-2 6-2 6-2 demolition job in the fourth round.
Tougher tests will surely come for the two-time champion, who may have to beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic if he wants to complete a Roland Garros-Wimbledon double for the third time in his career, but for now he was happy to show off the kind of ruthless streak that Boris Becker hailed as “vintage Nadal on grass”.
“It was a good solid match. A lot of positive things in there,” the 18-times Grand Slam champion, whose surgically-repaired body often struggles to cope with the demands of playing on the slick grass surface, said with a smile. “Good forehands, good backhands and creating some good volleys, so I am happy to be in the quarter-finals again. “The body is holding up well and I am playing some good tennis and winning matches in straight sets also helps.”
Until this year, the only Portuguese to create a racket, literally, in the singles at Wimbledon was Michelle Larcher de Brito. But whereas she made her name thanks to the cacophony of ear-splitting shrieks and squeals that could be heard all around, and beyond, the 42 acres that make up the All England Club, Sousa had let his racket do the talking as he became the first Portuguese to reach the last 16 of a major.
The run included a memorable second-round win over former US Open champion Marin Cilic but the world number 69 simply ran out of ideas when he came up against a tennis behemoth who had his eyes set on a 39th quarter-final appearance at the majors. The sweet-spot in Nadal’s racket appeared to be the size of a beachball yesterday as the Spaniard fired off formidable forehands, breathtaking backhands and thunderbolt aces to burst Sousa’s Wimbledon bubble.
As Nadal hurtled to a 4-0 lead in the first set, Sousa appeared to have adopted some Larcher de Brito tactics by producing a couple of comical grunts. But rather than throwing Nadal off stride, the “hay-way” yelps only made the crowd chuckle. Thirty winners in all flew off Nadal’s racket, none better than the running cross-court passing shot he flicked over the net as he chased down a Sousa dropshot to end a breathtaking 20-shot exchange.
While the Centre Court crowd erupted as they rose to their feet, some fans were seen bowing to Nadal’s greatness and even Sousa joined in by applauding the effort. The multi-lingual Sousa may speak Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, English, French and Italian but when it came to the language of tennis there was only one man on court who was fluent. Nadal’s fifth ace set up a last-eight meeting with the winner of the all-American duel between Tennys Sandgren and Sam Querrey.
Meanwhile, unseeded Karolina Muchova outlasted third seed and fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova to reach the last eight of Wimbledon in the longest women’s match at the championships so far this year. Muchova won 4-6 7-5 13-11 in three hours 17 minutes, claiming victory with a netcord as former world number one Pliskova’s wait for a first Grand Slam title continued.
In her first Grand Slam quarter-final world number 68 Muchova will face eighth-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina after she eased past Croatia’s Petra Martic. Had Pliskova not dropped serve in the final game of a high-quality duel, Wimbledon would have witnessed its first final set tiebreak at 12-12 — the new rule brought in after last year’s tournament to prevent ‘never-ending’ final sets.
With Australian world number one Ash Barty’s defeat in the earlier fourth-round tie on Court 2, Pliskova began the match as the highest seed left in the women’s draw and with a golden chance to reach the quarter-finals here for the first time. The big-server seemed on course when she took the opener against her 22-year-old compatriot. But Muchova, making her main draw debut this year, was undaunted and took the match to her more illustrious opponent with some sparkling tennis.
Pliskova squandered a 5-3 lead in the final set and then served for the match again at 11-10 but was broken to love. The tenacious Muchova did well to hold serve at 11-11 before going 0-40 up on the Pliskova serve thanks to a stunning clean winner off a forehand service return. Pliskova got back to 30-40 with her opponent slipping over on her second match point but Muchova got lucky at the third attempt as her forehand return clipped the tape and dropped dead. – Agencies