That’s torn it. As Wimbledon marched proudly into the second week, we thought we were finished with “Seedageddon” (let’s face it, there weren’t enough seeds left for the second week to mirror the first).
And then Kiki Bertens replanted the sole survivor from the top 10, removing her from the fourth round and relocating her in the queue for the airport.
Karolina Pliskova, the No.7 seed, was the last of the single-digit brigade left in the ladies’ singles. She had never reached the second week in SW19 before but with so many of her regular rivals already licking their wounds back at home, this was supposed to be a real chance to make even further progress.
Bertens, though, had other ideas. In 99 minutes of fearsome hitting, she dismissed the former world No.1 and US Open finalist 6-3, 7-6(1). If anyone was going to be making the most of an open draw in the second week, it was going to be her.
As we established on Saturday, both ladies had their own, unique take on what the second week might hold and how they ought to cope with it. Bertens was taking a highly unusual approach, claiming: “I need to make more mistakes”, while Pliskova was not bothered by anything at all. Serena in the semi-finals? “I don’t care about her,” she shrugged.
And what did the first day of the second week tell us? That both ladies know their onions. Bertens did indeed make mistakes, 22 of them, but it didn’t stop her winning. And Pliskova was spot on: she didn’t need to worry about Serena. She didn’t need to worry about anyone – she was on her way home.
What Bertens was trying to say prior to this match was that she needs to take a few risks. Risks are… well, risky. They can be doomed to failure (that is where the confusion with mistakes came in). But when they come off, they can change matches.
A clay courter by nature, taking risks on grass seems twice as dangerous but needs must if you want to do well in SW19. A first serve might have helped in this endeavour (pushing your luck behind a second serve is never wise) but alas, that shot was stubbornly refusing to cooperate. Oh well, you can’t have it all.
Anyway, Bertens’ risks are not the “shut your eyes, run forward and pray” sort of risks. They are more your “this is a forehand going at a gazillion miles an hour and I’m going to thread it through that two-inch gap between you and the tramline” sort of risk. And she was awfully good at those out on Court No.2. Awfully good indeed.
For someone who had seemed so desperately over-excited to have beaten Venus Williams on Friday, Bertens was a model of calm professionalism against Pliskova. Yes, there were breaks of serve – rather too many for comfort for either woman – but no sooner had the Dutchwoman dropped her serve in the first set than she came out firing from the baseline to break straight back.
She took the lead, lost it, grabbed it back again and then, to prove her point, broke again to claim the set as her own. Her serve (when she lands the first attempt) is big, her forehand could knock holes in concrete and her backhand can be landed on a postage stamp. What is not to like about her game?
Pliskova, for her part, looked thoroughly fed up in the first set but perked up considerably in the second. Unfortunately for her, just as she started to get her teeth into the contest, so Bertens started to serve better – and limited Pliskova’s options somewhat.
Once into the tie-break, Bertens simply ran away with it. Only on match point did she look nervous. And then only when she thought she had won. Pounding away a forehand swing volley, she turned to her box and clenched her fist. But instead of rapturous applause there was only a deafening silence: Pliskova had challenged the call.
Bertens sank to her knees and looked properly worried. She had kept everything in check for every point of the two sets and then allowed herself just the tiniest smidgeon of celebration. If the ball was out, could she regain her focus and play at that level again? Hawk-Eye swooped to her rescue. Her volley had landed plumb on the line. Bertens was through to the quarter-finals and was punching the air in delight.
There is a lot to be said for this making mistakes business.
Source: Alix Ramsay|| Wimbledon