In an all top five clash, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep will open Centre Court proceedings on Tuesday afternoon. Of the four quarter-finals, this is the only one where the seedings have held and the two highest seeds have progressed.
Kerber was the first winner of the day on Magic Monday with a reasonably comfortable, 6-3 6-1 victory over Misaki Doi. Compared to their last match in the first round of the Australian Open, it was a walk in the park for the German player! Kerber saved a match point on that occasion in a two hour and 41 minute marathon. This time round, Kerber had the measure of Doi who, playing in her first ever Slam second week, committed too many unforced errors to keep this competitive. Kerber looked to be struggling with pace on the serve in the first set but soon began to find her range, hitting one magnificent forehand passing shot.
Kerber played a fine second set, showing more intent as her opponent became increasingly error-strewn. Doi can produce some magic on her forehand side but it just wasn’t stable enough on this occasion. Kerber finished the match with a gorgeous wrong-footing forehand winner. After drawing the short straw against a peaking, Garbiñe Muguruza in the third round of Wimbledon last year, Kerber has taken advantage of a pretty favourable draw to reach her third Wimbledon quarter-final.
Halep’s back in the Wimbledon quarters after coming from a set and a break down to defeat the Birmingham champion, Madison Keys on Magic Monday. Spare a thought for the American who seemed to be struggling with a leg injury in the decider. It’s not the first time that Keys has been injured at a Slam (2016 AO against Zhang Shuai was a heartbreaker).
Halep did well to reset after the first set where she missed four set points, failing to serve it out at both *5-4 and *6-5. Halep had looked in control early on, under little pressure on the serve and keeping Keys off-balance with some well-placed shots and spins. However, she clearly felt the nerves and began to miss towards the end of it with Keys, not playing anywhere near her best, but keeping things reasonably solid.
Keys claimed the first set tiebreak with a neat serve and forehand combo on set point. The American quickly went up a break in the second set, but never really looked comfortable up against Halep. The Romanian player got back on level terms and broke for the second set with Keys buckling at *4-5 serving with scoreboard pressure. Halep earnt the only break of the third set to lead *4-2 and didn’t face any break points as Keys struggled to put any pressure on the injured leg. It was still a noteworthy win for Halep, who has had a super tournament so far having played no competitive matches on grass before Wimbledon this year.
Head-to-head record: Halep won her first three encounters against Kerber including a brutal, 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory in Toronto last year. In their most recent match in Fed Cup action, Kerber powered through for her first ever win over the Romanian player, 6-2 6-2 in Fed Cup action in April earlier this year.
*Edit – Halep was struggling with an ankle injury in the Fed Cup match
Interesting stat: Halep’s win over Keys was her first top ten win on the WTA tour since beating US Open champion, Flavia Pennetta in Singapore at the end of 2015. For Kerber, this is the first year since 2012 where she has made at least two Slam quarter-finals in the same year.
Final thoughts: Kerber and Halep have both made pretty serene progress through the draw with Kerber yet to drop a set and Halep losing her first set of the tournament to Keys. After watching their match in Canada, it was apparent this is a tricky match-up for Kerber with Halep’s ability to change direction on her shots with such effortless ease and get her in uncomfortable positions all over the court. Kerber though did look fatigued in that particular match having played Stanford the week before.
Grass would seem to suit Kerber’s game better, but she’ll need to step it up to win. The Australian Open champ has been a little passive this week although in fairness, she’s never really been in danger apart from the match against Carina Witthoeft where she was forced to save set points. Halep’s win over Keys will have been a confidence booster but there was quite a wobble trying to serve out the opener. The winner of this match will quite simply, in my opinion, be the player who plays more positively and goes for their shots. I’d fancy a competitive three setter with Kerber’s grass court prowess edging it.