On a rain-affected Friday, Venus Williams and Carla Suárez Navarro were the only two players to complete their third round matches on schedule and set up the first of the Magic Monday match-ups.
Venus Williams fought past a determined, Daria Kasatkina, 7-5 4-6 10-8 in a wonderful third round match that lasted two hours and 41 minutes out on No.1 Court. Venus came from a break down in the decider and overcame four rain stoppages. Each set had its fair share of momentum swings! Venus had looked sharp early on despite the damp conditions and frequent interruptions, racing out into a *5-1 lead. However, on the third resumption she seemed to lose her rhythm, losing four straight games and twice failing to serve out the set. Venus then managed to get the crucial hold to 6-5 with Kasatkina gifting the set away with a double fault and a forehand wayyyyy long.
Venus was twice up a break in the second set, playing much more aggressively and making more frequent trips into the net; however Kasatkina managed to find a way back, hitting some devilish drop shots along the way. The Russian player reeled off five games out of six to force a decider. Kasatkina was doing an excellent job at keeping Venus on the move with some wrong-footers and well-placed groundstrokes. Venus was forced to battle for two hours and 24 minutes to get past Maria Sakkari on Friday and she began to look a little fatigued, struggling to get down in the legs and hitting groundstrokes into the net. Kasatkina got the break to lead *4-3 but gifted it straight back with a double fault on break point.
The match continued on serve but not without some drama! Kasatkina saved a MP serving at *4-5 *30-40 with a forehand winner while Venus dug out of a *0-30 deficit to hold to 7-6. Quite remarkably, there was a downpour as Venus chalked up her second match point. On the resumption, the Russian player held serve with a smile. Kasatkina successfully served to stay in the match on four occasions, but on the fifth occasion, Venus stepped up her game with some aggressive play to take the match. Venus hit fewer winners (35 to 37) and more unforced errors (41 to 37) compared to Kasatkina but was able to rely on her more effective serve and won a decent chunk of points up at the net (23/32).
Suárez Navarro dropped sets in her opening two rounds to Zhang Shuai and Denisa Allertova but secured her first straight sets win of the tournament in the third round, defeating Marina Erakovic, 6-2 6-2. The Spaniard has gone under the radar as the number 12 seed and is quietly having a pretty decent grass court season after reaching the semi-finals of Birmingham. Grass is not her surface, but she has successfully navigated her way past some big hitters to reach the second week of Wimbledon for only the second time in her career.
Head-to-head record: The pair are tied at 3-3 in their head-to-head; rather curiously, a different player has won each time with neither Venus or Carla chalking up two wins in a row against each other. The pair played out three setters in Montreal (Venus won, 4-6 6-2 6-3 in 2014) and Miami (Carla won, 0-6 6-1 7-5 in 2015), but it was Venus who won their most recent encounter at the end of 2015 in Wuhan, 6-3 6-4. Venus prevailed in their only grass-court encounter back in 2009 at Wimbledon, 6-0 6-4.
Interesting stat: Suárez Navarro won just two matches at the Slams in 2015; however in 2016, she’s already had 10 victories and has successfully reached the second week at all three Slams.
Final thoughts: Venus and Carla have played some close matches so even though the grass gives Venus the advantage with her first serve, i’d still expect a very competitive affair. Venus battled hard to reach the fourth round with back-to-back three setters that went well over the two-hour-mark; had Venus and Carla played today or Sunday then the Spaniard would probably have the edge. The two days off will most likely favour Venus who has had the strapping on her leg all year. I’d say advantage Venus but Carla is having a very consistent year and another gruelling match could very well be on the cards…