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Angelique Kerber kept Coco Gauff on the wrong foot, and reached her first Slam quarterfinal since her 2018 Wimbledon title run
“Winning close matches, going out there and enjoying it, feeling my tennis, it’s always a good sign,” the 33-year-old German said. A sign of a fourth major victory, perhaps?
Published Jul 05, 2021
WATCH: Kerber closes out Gauff to reach the final eight.
If there’s a pattern that sums up Angelique Kerber’s 6-4, 6-4, win over Coco Gauff in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Monday, it goes like this:
Back, forth, back, forth, back, forth—wrong foot.
The 33-year-old Kerber is 16 years older than Gauff, and there was no way she could match the American’s power or foot speed. But on this afternoon in Centre Court, age, and the experience that comes with it, got the better of youth. Kerber gave Gauff a lesson in tennis geometry.
With drives and slices, sharp crosscourt angles and deep down-the-line shots into the corners, she moved Gauff from one corner to the other with metronomic efficiency. Then, just when Coco started to guess where the next shot was going and take off for it, Kerber hit the ball behind her. Kerber finished with just three fewer winners than her bigger-hitting opponent, 22 to 25, and was a perfect six for six at net. More important, the German was a nearly perfect four of five on break points.
“It’s never easy to play against someone who you never played, especially against someone, yeah, like Coco,” Kerber said. “I was trying to be focused, trying to playing my game, and going forward if I had the chances, especially in the second set, middle of the second set, then closing the match with my serve.”
It was a match that began in a swirling wind, and with five straight breaks of serve. Once the feeling-out process was over, both players quickly improved, and Gauff did many of the things that she always does: She hit aces, she belted backhand winners, she didn’t cave mentally, and she gave herself a chance in the end. But Kerber never let Coco find a rhythm or dictate play.
Serving at 3-4 in the second set, Gauff hit a big backhand return that drew an error from Kerber and gave her two break points. The pro-Coco crowd, who had mostly been subdued, stirred to life. On the next rally, Gauff had a good look at a mid-court forehand; but instead of pummeling it, she tried a drop shot. It didn’t go well. The ball clunked off her frame and into the net. Kerber saved a second break point with an ace, and hit another ace at match point.
Kerber is into the quarters, and, as the only former Wimbledon champion left in the women’s draw, has to be among the favorites to do it again. This being Wimbledon, she has played the tournament with more patience and less irritation than she often shows. Kerber fought the indefatigable Sara Sorribes Tormo tooth and nail for three hours in the second round, and in the third round she came back to beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich after losing the first set 6-2.
On this afternoon in Centre Court, age, and the experience that comes with it, got the better of youth. Kerber gave Gauff a lesson in tennis geometry.
Is Kerber getting that 2018 title feeling again? That year, while all of the other seeds were falling around her, Kerber did everything she could to win a close third-round match over Claire Liu, 6-4 in the third set. After that, she beat Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, and didn’t drop another set. This year the women’s draw also opened up early, with withdrawals by Osaka and Simona Halep, and Serena’s first-round retirement. Again, Kerber has done what she has needed to do to survive and advance, and put herself in the running for a fourth major crown at 33.
“You never know what can happen,” Kerber said. “Two weeks are really long. The conditions can change. It can rain. Then it’s really hot outside. You have to stay focused in your own way, on your routine, taking every single day by day.”
“I really worked hard in the last few months. Being able now to play matches like this, winning close matches, going out there and enjoying it, feeling my tennis, it’s always a good sign.”
A sign of what, exactly? We’ll find out this week. For now, she’s into her first Slam quarterfinal since she won at Wimbledon in 2018. As Kerber says, you never know what can happen, as long as she can keep her opponents on the wrong foot.