This post previews third round action set for Friday at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships with a series of snap previews. For a recap of action from the top half of the draw on Wednesday – Set Points #1 covers Azarenka-Vesnina and Osaka-Strycova HERE, while Set Points #2 covers the dramatic Keys-Giorgi match on No.3 Court HERE.
1. Venus Williams vs. Naomi Osaka (3rd up on No.1 Court)
Back in January and at the first tournament of 2017, Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka were set to play each other for the first time in Auckland. Sadly, Venus was forced to pull out due to injury. Seven months later and the stage is set again for Venus and Naomi… so excited for this one! Osaka has reached the last 32 of Wimbledon for the first time in her career to complete the sweep of third rounders at the Slams at just 19. Osaka enjoyed a superb win over the number 22 seed, Barbora Strycova, 6-1 0-6 6-4, on Wednesday. Osaka was devastatingly good in the first and third sets, and displayed great patience in the rallies. Venus needed three sets to get past a rapidly improving, Wang Qiang, 4-6 6-4 6-1.
This is a tough match to call with no previous data to go on. I’d give Osaka a good shot at the upset, based on how well she is hitting the ball and how quickly she has improved on the grass through her seven matches this year. I’m still concerned for Venus and her focus with other stuff going on in her life, but her experience and fighting spirit at Wimbledon is almost second to none. Osaka has spoken about the honour of playing Venus and I am intrigued to see whether she gives Venus too much respect on the court, or she can use the occasion to summon her best tennis.
Cannot wait for this!
2. Heather Watson vs. Victoria Azarenka (1st up on Centre Court)
It’s been a great start to Wimbledon for the Brits and Heather Watson is into the third round of Wimbledon for the third time in her career. Previous opponents at this stage of the tournament for Watson have included Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska. This time she goes up against an unseeded player… however, that player is Victoria Azarenka! The Belarusian is playing just her second tournament since coming back from the birth of her first child. Azarenka showed great resilience to fight back from a set down to beat CiCi Bellis in the first round and then won her eight consecutive match against Elena Vesnina in the second round, 6-3 6-3.
Watson is yet to drop a set at this tournament and enjoyed a superb win over the number 18 seed, Anastasija Sevastova, 6-0 6-4 in the second round. It was her third top 20 win in the last week! Azarenka leads Watson, 6-0 in their head-to-head and has never dropped more than four games in the 12 sets they have played against each other. Watson arrives with a huge injection of confidence and she’s been serving extremely well. She’ll also have the home crowd on her side, but Azarenka has played enough of these situations before not to be phased. Ultimately, I think Azarenka’s variety and more sustained willingness to come forward to the net will be a big factor in this match.
3. Jelena Ostapenko vs. Camila Giorgi (3rd up on No.2 Court)
Again, helmets at the ready! In a second career match-up, the French Open champion faces a hard-hitting clash with Camila Giorgi. Ostapenko has been severely tested this week, coming through three setters against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Francoise Abanda. The Latvian player has played eight consecutive three setters, of which seven she has won! Giorgi has also needed three sets to win her two matches this week – both were decent wins over Alizé Cornet (5-7 6-4 6-4) and Madison Keys (6-4 6-7(10) 6-1). The win over Keys was a superb result although she should have wrapped it up in two sets, losing a tense and thrilling a second set tiebreak to a battling, Keys. Giorgi’s serve disintegrated in the second set, but she got it back in the third set. Coupled with her dynamic and forceful groundstrokes, Giorgi was too good in the decider.
In their only previous match-up, Giorgi beat Ostapenko, 6-4 6-3 last year in Katowice. I think Giorgi is slightly more attuned to the grass having played ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Birmingham. Ostapenko though continues to be a three set winning machine, bucking the trend of previous first time Slam winners by seemingly building confidence after her Slam win. Both hit the ball with immense power and depth, and it will quite simply come down to who plays better on the day. Perhaps siding ever so slightly with Ostapenko as I remember how well she dealt with pace and depth at her feet against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in Charleston. Furthermore, she just keeps on pulling out these three set wins…
In other matches… i’m fascinated by an all-seeded clash between Dominika Cibulkova and Ana Konjuh. I would have liked to preview it, but I didn’t see either of their second round matches.