Coco Gauff can contend at Wimbledon in the future even if she fell well short of besting Angelique Kerber, the former champion said.

Gauff, still just 17, has gone from strength to strength since her main-draw major debut at the All England Club in 2019.

But after reaching the quarter-finals at the French Open this year, she could not follow suit on the grass in London – bowing out in the fourth round, just as she did two years ago.

The serving woes that have dogged Gauff previously contributed heavily to her elimination.

The American teenager landed just 56 per cent of her 62 first serves in and won the point from only 20 of those 35 successful efforts (57 per cent).

Kerber – the 2018 champion – was far less erratic and capitalised on four of five break point opportunities, saving four of six going the other way.

"Coco is such a great, talented young player," Kerber said after a comfortable 6-4 6-4 triumph in an hour and 16 minutes on Centre Court.

"She's for sure a newcomer with such a great future in front of her, so I'm really sure that she will have a great career and for sure she will play here so many times again and maybe one time she will get the title.

"I like how she's playing, how she's professional, and I think she has a great future in front of her."

Kerber has struggled for consistent form since winning the third of her grand slam singles titles at Wimbledon three years ago, but she always enjoys playing on grass.

Victory at the Bad Homburg Open heading into this tournament was her first since celebrating at the All England Club.

It was Kerber's seventh WTA Tour final on grass, with only four players – Serena Williams (12) and Venus Williams (nine) involved in more since the turn of the century.

"I really enjoy my time here," Kerber added. "It's so great to play in front of you guys again – that gives me the energy to play my best tennis.

"I'm really looking forward to playing my next match because this is such a magic place for me and I will try to do my best."

The in-form German is the last remaining former champion in the women's tournament and plays Karolina Muchova next.

"I'm not looking too much ahead," Kerber said. "I just try to stay in the moment and enjoy every single moment here."

Top seed Ash Barty ended Barbora Krejcikova's long winning run to reach her first Wimbledon singles quarter-final.

Krejcikova had reeled off 15 consecutive singles victories but the French Open champion was beaten 7-5 6-3 in an entertaining contest on No.1 Court.

World number one Barty came from a break down to take the opening set and was pushed hard by the 14th seed in the second on 'Manic Monday', but sealed her spot in the last eight at the All England Club.

The 2019 Roland Garros champion will face either British teenager Emma Raducanu or fellow Australian Ajla Tomljanovic for a place in the semi-finals.

Krejcikova, making her main draw debut in singles at SW19, held to love in a commanding first service game and went a break up at 2-1 when Barty pushed a cross-court shot long.

There was a gasp from the crowd when Krejcikova showed great skill and agility to put away a winner at her feet, but they were back on serve at 4-4 following an error-strewn game from the Czech.

Barty missed a chance to wrap up the set when she sent a forehand long but the 25-year-old pumped her fist after breaking to love, avoiding a tie-break after making an uncertain start.

Both players stood firm when they faced early break points in the second set but Barty was scenting the quarter-finals when her opponent sprayed a forehand wide to go 4-2 down.

Krejcikova – who also won a doubles title in Paris last month – took that setback in her stride, working Barty from side to side before putting away a backhand winner in the next game as she broke back immediately.

Yet Barty ground Krejcikova down again to restore her two-game advantage and fended off a break point before serving out the match to move into new territory at the grass-court grand slam.

 

Data Slam: Krejcikova's hot streak ends

Krejcikova had not suffered a singles defeat since May, winning a title in Strasbourg before her maiden grand slam triumph at Roland Garros.

Her magnificent winning streak came to an end in London, but the Brno native looks set to make further major strides.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Barty – 22/24
Krejcikova – 19/22

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty –7/5
Krejcikova – 4/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 4/7
Krejcikova – 2/10

Former French Open champion Iga Swiatek has been knocked out of Wimbledon after losing an entertaining fourth-round battle with Ons Jabeur.

Jabeur had never been past the second round at Wimbledon before the 2021 tournament but will now face second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.

The Tunisian stormed back from behind on Court 2 to defeat seventh seed Swiatek 5-7 6-1 6-1 on Monday.

Jabeur sealed her victory with a ninth ace of the match and let out a passionate roar.

She was fantastic at key moments, converting all seven of the break-point opportunities she created and firing 30 winners to 23 unforced errors.

Swiatek, by contrast, racked up 15 break-point chances but could only take three of them. The Pole only had a first-serve percentage of 46 and struggled to find her rhythm.

 

Jabeur, seeded 21st, also impressively saw off Garbine Muguruza in a comeback victory in the previous round.

She has now matched her best grand slam result, achieved when she reached the last eight at the Australian Open last year.

Sabalenka, meanwhile, survived a scare but ultimately prevailed in three tough sets against Elena Rybakina.

A 6-3 4-6 6-3 win in just under two hours gave Sabalenka her first-ever appearance at a slam quarter-final.

Ons Jabeur ended the Wimbledon title hopes of Garbine Muguruza with a Centre Court triumph she hailed as the biggest moment yet in her career.

The Tunisian followed up a second-round win over veteran five-time champion Venus Williams by eliminating 11th seed Muguruza, brilliantly plotting her path through a treacherous draw.

A 5-7 6-3 6-2 victory for 21st seed Jabeur sets up a stellar fourth-round clash with Iga Swiatek, the 20-year-old Polish rising superstar who scored a sizzling 6-1 6-0 win earlier against Irina-Camelia Begu.

Swiatek won the French Open last year and is the seventh seed at Wimbledon.

Muguruza found a way to win through the opening set against Jabeur, but thereafter she was second best against a player who won her first career title last month in Birmingham.

That Birmingham success had been coming for a long time, with Jabeur becoming an increasing force on the women's tour, but she came to Wimbledon with nothing to call upon in terms of previous success at the grass-court grand slam.

Two first-round exits came either side of a 2018 second-round loss, but Jabeur looked right at home on the big stage against Muguruza, the 2017 champion and former world number one.

"I'm good. I can play another match now, you know!" said Jabeur, almost breathless, immediately after the contest.

"I'm very happy and honestly this is the first time I've been on Centre and it was amazing energy guys, thank you."

Interviewed in front of a crowd who took to her tennis and warm personality, Jabeur was asked whether this was the best day of her career.

The 26-year-old responded: "It is! Seriously. I'm not saying this so you guys can cheer for me for the next round, but this is my favourite centre court I play. The energy's amazing. I'm so, so, so happy."

Jabeur could not take a first match point but then lashed down a serve that Muguruza could barely get a racket to and followed that point by finishing off a baseline rally with a thumping forehand winner into the left corner.

It was some victory for the player who became the first Arab winner on the WTA Tour with that Birmingham final triumph over Daria Kasatkina.

Against Muguruza, Jabeur fired 44 winners against 27 unforced errors, a healthy ratio, and won 18 of 22 points when she went to the net.

 

As Muguruza trudged off, disappointed, Jabeur reflected on how the match went better than their previous meeting, when the Spaniard won in a deciding-set tie-break at Hobart last year.

"She plays unbelievably on grass and everybody knows that," Jabeur said. "I lost against her last time, but this was my revenge here – in a nice way.

"I tried my best. It was difficult in the first set, we weren't reading our serves, but then after the second set I tried to stay more calm and enjoyed playing here.

"I was more aggressive, trying to do some drop shots and going into the net.

"Sometimes when I play loose and good my forehand gets better, and everything gets better."

Coco Gauff enjoyed a day to remember on Thursday, as she is set to become the youngest Olympic tennis player since 2000, while the 17-year-old also starred at Wimbledon.

Gauff made her name as a 15-year-old prodigy at Wimbledon in 2019.

Two years on, Gauff returned to Centre Court for the first time since her defeat to eventual champion Simona Halep, and marked the occasion with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Elena Vesnina.

Her Wimbledon campaign is not the only thing Gauff will have on her mind, though, with the teenager having also secured a place in the United States' women's tennis team for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which start later this month.

Gauff will become the youngest tennis player in a Games since Mario Ancic and Jelena Docki, aged 16 and 17 respectively, competed at Sydney 2000, while she will also be the second-youngest American Olympian on the court, after 16-year-old Jennfier Capriati, who took gold in Barcelona 29 years ago.

She is joined by Jennifer Brady, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske in the singles – which is ranked based on the top four players from each country who have opted in  – with Sofia Kenin, Madison Keys and Serena Williams having declined the opportunity to feature, while Venus Williams, the most decorated Olympic tennis player in history, did not qualify.

Nicole Melichar and 2016 gold medalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands were the doubles-only picks.

As she proved again on Thursday, Gauff – who has two singles titles to her name on the WTA Tour – has little trouble in dealing with the big stage.

She needed just 70 minutes to defeat Vesnina and progress to round three at the All England Club, though she admitted her memories of her 2019 efforts at Wimbledon are not the best.

"It did feel a lot different. I honestly was more nervous coming into today's match," she said.

"I think the biggest thing is I don't really remember much from my Centre Court experience in 2019. I don't know, I felt like it was all a blur.

"But going in today I feel like a completely different player and person. It wasn't my best tennis today, but I think mentally I gave a good performance considering how nervous I was.

"I try not to put expectations on myself, at least only put the ones that I can control, and I know I can control how I act on the court and how I carry myself.

"What I will say is my goal I guess is more clear right now than it was in 2019. I think just my belief is a lot stronger now, the feeling that I can go far."

Elina Svitolina admitted she was "not really in a good place" after losing in straight sets to Magda Linette in the second round at Wimbledon.

Third seed Svitolina became the latest big name in the women's draw to exit early at SW19, going down 6-3 6-4 on Thursday.

Linette claimed her first win over a top-10 player in some style, too, the world number 44 needing just 65 minutes to come out on top, aided by converting three of nine break-point chances she created against an out-of-sorts opponent.

For Svitolina, the result comes as she deals with a tough period in her career. The Ukrainian exited in the last 16 at Eastbourne ahead of the third grand slam of the season, while she was knocked out in the third round at the French Open.

"Mentally, I was not really in a good place. When you play a grand slam it's a different kind of pressure. Sometimes it's tough to handle but it's part of the job - it is part of the grand slam," she said after the defeat on grass.

"You have to try to be strong, try to be good to yourself and try to overcome the fears, the difficulties. Today probably I was not fresh mentally to do that.

"Right now I wouldn't say it's very smooth times in my career. It's a tough time, but I have been in these situations in my career a few times."

Svitolina's exit means just four of the top eight seeds are left standing. Sofia Kenin and Bianca Andreescu both went out in the opening round, while Serena Williams was forced to retire due to injury in the first set against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

However, top seed Ashleigh Barty remains in the running, the Australian seeing off Anna Blinkova in straight sets on Centre Court.

While her serve faltered, Barty had too much power as she clinched a 6-4 6-3 result that sets up a meeting with Katerina Siniakova in the third round.

Serena Williams was left "heartbroken" after being forced to retire hurt in her first-round match at Wimbledon as the American great's quest for a record-equalling grand slam title continues.

Williams – seeking a historic 24th slam crown – was in tears after succumbing to an ankle injury during the early stages of Tuesday's clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich at SW19.

Stuck on 23 slams since 2017, Williams hurt her ankle in the fifth game and the 39-year-old eventually called a halt to proceedings with the match level at 3-3 on Centre Court.

"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," seven-time Wimbledon champion Williams wrote via Instagram following a possible SW19 farewell.

"My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on centre court so meaningful.

"Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on - and off - the court meant the world to me."

Williams had arrived in London amid high expectations in pursuit of matching Margaret Court's record of 24 slams.

Veteran Williams, who lost in the French Open fourth round, has won seven Wimbledon titles (level with Steffi Graf) – only Martina Navratilova has more in the Open Era (nine).

Williams has been a Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Chris Evert is the only player in the Open Era to have lost three consecutive Wimbledon finals (between 1978 and 1980).

She was looking to become only the second woman to win 100 Wimbledon singles matches (currently 98), alongside Navratilova (120), while Williams had been hoping to become the first woman to reach 100-plus wins in two different majors (106 wins at the US Open).

Serena Williams is out of Wimbledon in the first round after injury forced her to retire in the early stages of her match with Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The American, who was seeking a historic 24th grand slam title at the return of an event she has won seven times, was tearful as she had to withdraw from the match.

Williams had broken Sasnovich and led 3-1, appearing to be in full control of Tuesday's contest on Centre Court.

But she suffered an ankle injury in the fifth game after seeming to slip while playing a forehand.

With her movement clearly limited, Sasnovich broke back and Williams left the court for treatment as she took a medical timeout.

She re-emerged to huge applause and bravely tried to continue but was visibly in severe discomfort.

The 39-year-old soon had to call a halt to proceedings with the match level at 3-3, having let out a scream of pain as she tried in vain to reach the ball.

Serena Williams has announced she will not take part in the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have already opted out of featuring at the Games next month, with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic yet to commit.

Williams, who made her Olympics debut in 2000 and has four gold medals, is now atop the list of big-name absentees, having previously expressed reservations because she would not be able to take her three-year-old daughter Olympia along with her.

"I'm actually not on the Olympic list – not that I'm aware of. If so, then I shouldn’t be on it," she said at a pre-Wimbledon news conference.

"There's a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision. I don’t feel like going into them today. Maybe another day. Sorry."

Williams will begin her pursuit of an eighth Wimbledon and 24th grand slam singles title against Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Tuesday.

After an enforced hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, tennis returns to SW19.

Novak Djokovic makes his way back to Wimbledon as the defending champion and with the men's grand slam record firmly in his sight.

Djokovic conquered Rafael Nadal en route to French Open glory and his 19th slam crown – one shy of the record shared by rivals Nadal and Roger Federer.

With Nadal and Dominic Thiem absent, Djokovic's path to a 20th major trophy has opened up in London.

The women's title is up for grabs after holder Simona Halep withdrew, and Serena Williams can still dream of making history.

As all eyes shift to the All England Club, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

Dominant Djokovic

World number one and top seed Djokovic begins his title defence against promising Briton Jack Draper in the first round.

French Open champion Djokovic has won four of the last six Wimbledon tournaments, including each of the past two – the last player to win more at Wimbledon in a row was Federer between 2003 and 2007 (five).

A five-time Wimbledon winner, Djokovic is the only man to have won the first two grand slam tournaments of a calendar year over the last 25 years, doing it in 2016 and 2021. The last man to win the first three grand slams of a calendar year was Rod Laver during his Grand Slam in 1969.

The 2019 Wimbledon final was the first slam decider to be decided by a final set tie-break, with Djokovic beating Federer 7-3 in that tiebreak, while it was also the longest final in Wimbledon history (four hours, 57 minutes).

No man has won Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year since Nadal in 2010.

 

Federer farewell?

The curtain appears to be closing on all-time great Federer, who withdrew from the French Open after a draining four-set win over Dominik Koepfer to preserve his body for the grass season.

This year's Wimbledon could be the 39-year-old's final realistic shot at a grand slam as Djokovic bids to become the greatest of all.

Seeded sixth, Federer – who meets Adrian Mannarino first up – has won the most Wimbledon titles among all male players in the slam's history.

Federer will aim to win his 21st grand slam, which would break a tie with Nadal for the outright men's record.

 

The 'Big Four' and their stranglehold

Injuries have forced two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray to fall out of the equation but there has been no getting past the original 'Big Four'.

Among the men, the last 17 years of Wimbledon has been dominated by the same four players – Federer (eight titles), Djokovic (five), Nadal (two), Murray (two). The last winner at Wimbledon before them was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

Since Wimbledon in 2004, only one of the 68 slams has not seen at least one of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in the semi-finals – it was at the US Open last year.

The new generation is headlined by grand slam runners-up Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev has never passed the third round at Wimbledon, though his two defeats at that stage have both been in five sets. The Russian second seed has reached at least the quarter-finals in three of his last four major tournaments, after reaching that stage in only one of his previous 13.

Beaten by Djokovic in the Roland Garros final, Tsitsipas has reached the semi-finals in his last three slams, having done so only once in his previous 12. The third seed has never reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, however.

Wimbledon is the only slam where fourth seed Alexander Zverev is yet to reach the quarter-final, his best result being a fourth-round performance in 2017. Since the beginning of 2020, he has advanced to the semi-finals in three slam tournaments, after never doing it in his previous 18 such major main-draw appearances.

 

Serena's ongoing quest

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

Williams, who lost in the French Open fourth round, has won seven Wimbledon titles (level with Steffi Graf) – only Martina Navratilova has more in the Open Era (nine).

American superstar Williams has been a Wimbledon runner-up in 2018 and 2019. Chris Evert is the only player in the Open Era to have lost three consecutive Wimbledon finals (between 1978 and 1980).

Williams, the sixth seed who will clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the opening round, is looking to become only the second woman to win 100 Wimbledon singles matches (currently 98), alongside Navratilova (120). She could also become the first woman to reach 100-plus wins in two different majors (106 wins at the US Open).

From the first Wimbledon final reached by one Williams sister in 2000 (won by Venus against Lindsay Davenport), only in four of 20 editions has neither of the two sisters reached the decider – in 2006 (Amelie Mauresmo-Justine Henin), 2011 (Petra Kvitova-Maria Sharapova), 2013 (Marion Bartoli-Sabine Lisicki) and 2014 (Kvitova-Eugenie Bouchard).

 

Barty party?

Former French Open champion Ash Barty heads to Wimbledon as the top seed and will kick off her title bid against veteran Carla Suarez Navarro.

However, world number one Barty has never reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Reaching the 2019 fourth round was her best result. The last Australian woman to reach the quarters at Wimbledon was Jelena Dokic in 2000.

The top seed in the Wimbledon women's singles main draw has been eliminated in the first round just three times in the Open Era – Graf in 1994, Martina Hingis in 1999 and Hingis again in 2001.

Wimbledon is the only major won by Kvitova in her career (2011 and 2014). She is one among the three current players with multiple titles at the All England Club, alongside Serena and Venus Williams.

Karolina Pliskova was the woman with the most aces per match made on average at Wimbledon 2019 (9.0, 36 in total) among players who reached the third round.

When two whipsmart kids from Compton first walked through the gates of the All England Club, the history of tennis was ripe for a radical makeover.

With beads in their hair and an air of mystery tailgating them onto the tour, this pair of teenage prodigies soon had the world at their feet.

Now, Serena Williams and Venus Williams are as much a part of Wimbledon tradition as strawberries and cream, and the championships without them is almost unthinkable.

Stacking up a combined 12 singles titles from Wimbledon, and a string of staggering records, this great sporting double act has defined the past quarter of a century in the women's game.

Venus is now 41 years old, and kid sister Serena turns 40 in September. Both will be going flat out for more success at Wimbledon and over the course of the rest of the year. They have been relentless and supremely driven in the pursuit of greatness.

But it feels legitimate now to be talking about how the WTA Tour and the grand slams will look without the Williamses, because as much as they have together pushed the boundaries of achievement in tennis, neither can defy the march of time.

Or at least they cannot keep pushing back against that march, since both have done a truly spectacular job so far.

"Venus and Serena, they changed the game, they elevated the game, and that is the biggest thing that could happen to our sport," Johanna Konta, Britain's former Wimbledon semi-finalist, told Stats Perform.

"They changed the physical requirements, they pushed the whole level of the sport so high, which I think has really accelerated the depth of women's tennis that we're seeing today, and so I can't imagine the day coming when they're not playing.

"I'm sure it will come at some point, but I'm not too sure when that day will be."

 


AGE NO BARRIER?

Serena has a place in the record books as the oldest women's world number one, having last occupied that position in May 2017 at the age of 35 years and 230 days. Next on that list sit Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, both a relatively fledgling 30 when they were last in the top spot.

She is also the second oldest player to hold a top-10 WTA ranking. On Monday, as the championships begin, Serena, currently the world number eight, will be 39 years and 275 days old. Only Billie Jean King (39 years 322 days in October 1983) has held such a lofty place among the sport's elite later in life.

Navratilova comes next, with Venus just a short step behind in fourth place, having last been in the top 10 in July 2018, aged 38 and 29 days.

If Serena wins the women's singles title at Wimbledon this year – and several British bookmakers see her as favourite – it will make her the oldest player in the Open Era to win a title on the women's tour.

King won at Birmingham in 1983 at 39 years and 203 days, and Williams sits fourth on that particular list of the oldest champions for now, having captured the 2020 Auckland title at 38 years and 108 days.

The oldest Wimbledon women's singles champion remains Charlotte Cooper Sterry, triumphant for Britain in 1908 at 37 years and 282 days.

An injection of power and physicality, alongside a whole lot of finesse, has seen the Williamses bring a new dimension to tennis. It is far removed from the game Sterry might have played.


SERVING UP SCUDS

In 2010, only one player on the WTA Tour served more than 300 aces, yet by 2019, the most recent uninterrupted season, that had risen to seven players.

Advances in technology are a factor here, but so too is the scenario whereby a young girl watches Serena and Venus whizzing serves by opponents' ears around the turn of the century and wants to learn how that is done.

Serving need not just be the moment where a point begins, it can be the shot that ends the point too.

Venus owns the record for the fastest serve ever recorded by a woman at Wimbledon – sending down a 129 miles per hour scud on her way to victory in the 2008 final. The player on the receiving end of such vicious hitting that day? Serena.

"I'm glad she did it, because next time I know what to expect," was Serena's punchy post-match response.

From 2008, when the WTA first began to collect such statistics, through to 2016, Serena topped the charts every season when it came to the highest percentage of service games won.

She has also led the way in percentages of first-serve points won in eight of the last 13 seasons.

On July 5, 2012, Serena fired 24 aces past Victoria Azarenka in their Wimbledon semi-final and paired that women's singles record with another – her 102 aces across seven matches also setting an all-time tournament high.

Serena has a 98-12 win-loss career record in singles at Wimbledon, with Venus not far behind on 89-17. Where Venus has won five or her seven slam titles on the grass in London, Serena has accrued seven of her 23 majors at the championships.

Only nine-time champion Navratilova (120) has won more women's singles matches at Wimbledon than Serena. Roger Federer (101) leads the way among the men.

 


SHOWING SERENA THE WAY IN SAN JOSE

Konta handed Serena the heaviest defeat of her career in 2018, inflicting a 6-1 6-0 thrashing in San Jose.

The British player, however, is fully appreciative of Serena's standing in the game, the American's status as an all-time sports great. For Williams to leave the tour would leave a huge hole.

"I don't know anything else. I think that's a very lucky and privileged thing to say as an athlete, to be playing at the same time as one of our greatest ever," said Konta, a Jaguar ambassador.

"Equally, the men can say that with the likes of Roger, Rafa and Djokovic around, it's just a really exciting time to be part of the world of tennis.

"You constantly see players retiring as the years go by; it's a normal process. We had Maria [Sharapova] and Caroline [Wozniacki] retire at the beginning of last year. I think the way they timed their retirement was absolutely incredible.

"It's a normal course to happen, so from a player's perspective there'll be the initial thought of 'Oh my goodness, she's retiring', but the game keeps going and players keep playing.

"More than anything, not having Serena around anymore it will maybe be more noticeable in the fans, in the fandom, in the outside part of the sport, because she is such a big figurehead of our sport and rightly so."

Serena has reached the Wimbledon final on seven of her last 10 appearances in SW19, collecting five titles in that time. The final defeats during that span came in the last two years that Wimbledon has been held, however, with defeats to Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep sure to leave some scars.

 


THE KAFELNIKOV INFLUENCE

In recent years, Serena has invited the likes of showbiz A-listers Jay-Z, Beyonce and Drake to sit in her player's box at courtside, while she is a close friend of Meghan Markle and was a royal wedding guest.

She and Venus were once unknown quantities, but now both transcend their sport.

By the age of 16, Serena had it all mapped out, and her Wimbledon success can be attributed in a very small way to an unexpected Russian influence.

"I have decided when I go on the grass, I am going to serve and volley. There is one man player who plays great on the clay, and then on the grass he actually serves and volleys," Williams told a news conference at the 1998 Lipton Championships in Florida, weeks before her Wimbledon debut. "And I said, Serena, I have to do the same thing."

Who was this mystery man? All-court greats had been in short supply. Agassi?

"Yevgeny Kafelnikov, he plays great on the clay. He actually won the French Open," Williams said at the time. "He actually serve and volleys on the grass. I said, I have to do this too. If he can do it, I believe I can do it. That really helps me."

Former world number one Kafelnikov never went beyond the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but his surprising influence lives on.

Serena is one short of Margaret Court's all-time record of grand slam titles and dearly wants to at least match that haul but ideally reach 25. The Wimbledon title looks out of reach for Venus, who has fallen out of the world's top 100, but for Serena it is a realistic target.

The elite field is thinning, with Naomi Osaka and defending champion Halep among the withdrawals, and there are question marks over the form and fitness of many other big names in the draw.

The eighth Wimbledon and 24th singles slam feels eminently achievable, and what a moment for the ages that would be.

 


GOING ON THE KONTA ATTACK

Konta was only denied a place in the 2017 Wimbledon final by a valiant Venus, the 37-year-old American experiencing a late-career resurgence during what proved a stellar year for her.

It nevertheless gave the Australian-born Briton a real taste, with a win over Halep en route to the semi-finals showing she has the game to take on the best on grass.

Another grand slam semi-final followed in 2019, this time on clay at the French Open, and quarter-final runs at Wimbledon and the US Open confirmed Konta was the real deal. She previously reached the 2016 Australian Open final four.

It has been tough going since then though, Konta going out in the first round at four of the last five grand slams. Injuries have got in the way, and the joy she felt at winning a title in Nottingham in June 2021 was tempered slightly by a slight knee problem.

That success on English grass was a first tour title for Konta since the 2017 Miami Open, and life for her is good in many respects. On May 17, her 30th birthday, she and boyfriend Jackson Wade became engaged, or as she puts it, they killed "two birds with one stone when it came to milestones on that day".

Assuming the knee holds up, success in Nottingham could pave the way for another fruitful Konta campaign at Wimbledon. Last year's tournament being cancelled due to the pandemic was a blow to everyone but particularly felt by the British players.

"I was really pleased with having won a title, the first title I've won in a few years," Konta said. "It's a very nice accomplishment and something I definitely don't take for granted, because coming by titles is very difficult.

"Obviously, I'm just trying to do the best I can in managing my body. After the quick change onto the grass I just need to take care of the different little niggles that I have and the ongoing things and anything new that arises, but I'm definitely looking forward to Wimbledon.

"I think it's just the fact that we have Wimbledon again this year. Wimbledon's such a big part of our sporting calendar here and our sporting summer.

"For the nation and for international tennis fans, I think it's just really brilliant. The fact we are going to have crowds, that will be almost a new experience having not played in front of big crowds for a long time."

Could Konta even win Wimbledon, becoming Britain's first women's singles champion since Virginia Wade in 1977?

"I definitely feel I have every chance to look to win seven consecutive matches," Konta said. "It's a hard ask and it's difficult to do, but I feel like I have every opportunity, every chance to give it a go and I'm looking forward to trying."

:: Johanna Konta is a Jaguar ambassador. Jaguar is the Official Car of The Championships, Wimbledon. To discover Jaguar’s unmatched experiences visit jaguar.co.uk/Wimbledon

Jelena Ostapenko has targeted a return to the top 10 of the WTA rankings after beating Anett Kontaveit in straight sets to win the Viking International in Eastbourne.

The Latvian was the first wildcard to reach the final since Daniela Hantuchova in 2000 and kept up her good form ahead of Wimbledon by beating Kontaveit 6-3 6-3.

French Open 2017 winner Ostapenko dominated from the start and picked up the victory in one hour and five minutes, adding to her three previous career WTA titles.

She has now won titles on all four surfaces – clay, hard, indoor and grass – and is hopeful of improving on her current ranking of 43rd in the world.

"I think it says that I can be dangerous and playing well on all surfaces probably," she said in her on-court interview. 

"Of course I enjoy to play more on just some of them, but in general I can adjust well to different surfaces.

"I think this is just the beginning for me. If I keep playing the way I played this tournament, I think I can be back in top 10 and play well.

"I just have to keep that in my mind and work even harder."

Ostapenko made good use of her strong service game to break Kontaveit's serve in the third and fifth games.

Kontaveit earned a first break in the eighth game with four service return winners in a row, but Ostapenko recovered from 40-15 in the next game to take the opening set.

It was then plain sailing for Ostapenko in the second set as she earned the only break at 2-1 and held for the remainder, clinching the victory with her second championship point.

Ostapenko will face Leylah Fernandez in the first round of Wimbledon next week.

Angelique Kerber defeated Katerina Siniakova in straight sets on Saturday to win the inaugural Bad Homburg Open and end her three-year wait for a title.

The number four seed, whose last tournament triumph was at Wimbledon in 2018, prevailed 6-3 6-2 on home soil in a time of one hour and 25 minutes for her 13th career WTA singles crown. 

Kerber overcame Amanda Anisimova and top seed Petra Kvitova on Friday to reach her first final in two years but took time to get going against Siniakova, who won her only two career titles in 2017.

Siniakova broke Kerber's serve in the third game, only for the German to quickly respond by taking the next game as the pair continued to exchange blows.

World number 28 Kerber slowly found her rhythm and opened up a two-game lead at 5-3, but she had to save three break points before Siniakova fired into the net to concede the opening set.

The second set played out in a similar manner to begin with as Siniakova battled back after losing serve in the first game to level at 2-2 against her former world number one opponent.

But Kerber showed her quality by reeling off four games in a row and getting over the line with her third match point to add to her trophy collection.

The victory for the 33-year-old was her 75th on grass, which is the third most among active players behind Serena and Venus Williams.

Kerber is seeded 25th for Wimbledon and will face Nina Stojanovic in the first round next week.

"Everyone knows that I love to play on grass, I really feel well," she said in her on-court interview. 

"I had some great matches. The goal was to have some good matches to prepare for Wimbledon. Let's see and hope I can continue this next week."

Angelique Kerber won two games on Friday to progress to the final of the inaugural Bad Homburg Open, with unseeded Katerina Siniakova her opponent.

Kerber made home advantage count, following up a 2-6 6-3 6-3 quarter-final win over Amanda Anisimova – a match that was pushed back from Thursday when rain washed out play – with a triumph over top seed Petra Kvitova.

The former world number one came back from behind to win 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) and take a spot in her first WTA singles final since 2019.

Kerber and Kvitova have now met 15 times, with the German winning on nine occasions.

She will go up against an unexpected finalist in the form of Siniakova, who defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo.

The Czech is the world number two in doubles, winning three grand slam titles in that format, and will be looking to replicate the feat of her regular partner Barbora Krejcikova, who triumphed at the French Open this year.

At the Viking International in Eastbourne, Jelena Ostapenko made light work of Elena Rybakina, while Anett Kontaveit made it into the final due to Camila Giorgi's retirement.

Latvian wildcard Ostapenko finished her 6-4 6-1 victory with zero double faults – the first time she has managed such a performance since winning in Luxembourg two years ago.

"I'm really happy with the way I played this week, and every match I played better and better," Ostapenko told a news conference after clinching a spot in her ninth career final.

"It's been a while [since making a] final, so I'm really happy to be in a final and looking forward to tomorrow's match."

The 2017 French Open champion will face Estonia's Kontaveit, who has won their previous two meetings and was 5-4 up in the opening set against Giorgi when her opponent retired hurt.

"It's actually nice to have a Baltic final, because [we're] not such big countries, but we still have good players," Ostapenko added.

"Anett, I know since juniors. We have been playing a lot, maybe not so many matches but we practice sometimes together, in juniors, and played even doubles. So I know her quite well."

Novak Djokovic will start the defence of his Wimbledon title against British wildcard Jack Draper, and Serena Williams takes on Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round.

Djokovic is just one grand slam title away from matching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's record tally of 20 after winning the Australian Open and French Open this year.

The world number one will take on 19-year-old Draper, a quarter-finalist at Queen's Club last week, in his first match at SW19 for two years after the 2020 championships were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Djokovic faces a potential quarter-final against Andrey Rublev, while Federer could come up against second seed Daniil Medvedev in last eight.

 

First up for eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer is an encounter with Adrian Mannarino, while injury-plagued two-time winner Andy Murray will start his home major against the 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, beaten by Djokovic in a thrilling French Open final this month, has been drawn to face American Frances Tiafoe in round one of a tournament that gets under way on Monday.

Simona Halep announced just before the draw was made on Friday that she would not defend her title due to a calf injury.

Williams, runner-up to Halep in the 2019 final, must get past Sasnovich of Belarus in the first round and could face third seed Elina Svitolina at the quarter-final stage.

World number one and top seed Ash Barty takes on Carla Suarez Navarro, who made a grand slam return at Roland Garros after recovering from cancer. Barty could come up against Bianca Andreescu in the last eight.

Petra Kvitova against Sloane Stephens is a standout first-round match, while Coco Gauff's first assignment will be a meeting with 20-year-old Briton Fran Jones.

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