With roof closed, Williams rolls at Wimbledon
LONDON — It was raining, ever so slightly, and her Wimbledon fourth-round match was slipping away, ever so slightly, when Serena Williams stumbled as she ran to the net, winding up seated on the slick Centre Court grass.
Her opponent, two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, sent a shot flying past Williams to go up a break at 5-4 in the opening set.
Williams was slow to get up. She wasn't injured, but was worried she could be. Why, she demanded to know from chair umpire Marija Cicak, wasn't the retractable roof shut? Eventually, after one more game and much discussion, action was delayed for nearly 30 minutes while the cover was closed.
Whether it was the transformation to an indoor court, the strategy session the break allowed her to have with coach Patrick Mouratoglou or, as Williams suggested, simply the chance to calm down, she completely dominated the rest of the way, taking the last nine games to beat the 13th-seeded Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-0 on Monday.
"I'm so intense on the court. I give 200 percent every time I'm out there. Every single point. Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and relax. I just needed to do that. I can do that on the timeouts," said Williams, who is seeking her seventh Wimbledon title and 22nd Grand Slam trophy overall.
"That's one thing the past four years I've been really doing a lot of, just really taking a deep breath, re-collecting myself," the No. 1-ranked Williams continued. "I had a little more time to do it this time."
She wound up winning 24 of the match's last 29 points, and her 14 aces helped produce a "Did I read that right?" edge of 43-8 in winners.
The 13th-seeded Kuznetsova said she knew closing the roof would help Williams, but agreed it was the right decision, given how wet the grass was, saying: "I was afraid. ... I'm not ready to risk (an) injury."
Williams moved into her 12th quarterfinal at the All England Club, and she'll be joined by her older sister Venus at that stage of the tournament for the first time since 2010.
A year after that, Venus revealed she had been diagnosed with an energy-sapping disease, and she hasn't approached the level of play that carried her to seven major titles, including five at Wimbledon. At 36 the oldest woman in the field, she eliminated 12th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6 (3), 6-4 on Monday.
"It's wonderful when everything is working. But that's not a reality. I don't focus so much on, 'Oh, my gosh, everything feels good,' or, 'Oh, shoot, it feels bad,'" Venus said. "It's about, 'Can I make this play right now? If I don't feel great, can I still make this play?' That's the mentality I go into my matches with now."
The oldest man left is Roger Federer, who turns 35 on Aug. 8, and he looked in fine form after two days of rest, easily dismissing unseeded American Steve Johnson 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. Federer equaled Jimmy Connors' Open-era record by reaching his 14th Wimbledon quarterfinal and added to his own mark by making it at least that far at a major for the 48th time.
Federer now plays No. 9 Marin Cilic, who beat him en route to the 2014 U.S. Open championship.
"He brushed me off the court," Federer recalled, "like I was nothing."
Wednesday's other men's quarterfinals: No. 2 Andy Murray against No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 6 Milos Raonic against No. 28 Sam Querrey, and No. 32 Lucas Pouille against either No. 10 Tomas Berdych or Jiri Vesely. The fourth-rounder between Berdych and Vesely was suspended Monday night because of darkness, tied at two sets apiece.
Cilic (against No. 5 Kei Nishikori) and Tsonga (against No. 7 Richard Gasquet) advanced when opponents quit because of injury.
In the women's quarterfinals, Venus will meet Yaroslava Shevodva, while Serena faces 21st-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Tuesday's other matchups: No. 4 Angelique Kerber vs. No. 5 Simona Halep, and No. 19 Dominika Cibulkova vs. Elena Vesnina.
Cibulkova's story is fascinating. She had been past the third round at Wimbledon only once, and therefore figured there was no way she would make it deep into Week 2, so went ahead and scheduled her wedding — for Saturday, the day of the women's final.
After saving a match point and edging 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 5-7, 9-7 in a thriller Monday, she explained that if she defeats Vesnina, the walk down the aisle will have to wait.
"I said to my team, 'OK, now it's getting more serious,'" recounted Cibulkova, the Australian Open runner-up in 2014. "So I told them, 'If I win tomorrow, then we seriously have to deal with this.'"