Alcaraz marches on at Wimbledon as Osaka dumped out

Published July 4, 2024
Japan’s Naomi Osaka plays a return against Emma Navarro of the US during their Wimbledon second-round match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on Wednesday.—Reuters
Japan’s Naomi Osaka plays a return against Emma Navarro of the US during their Wimbledon second-round match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on Wednesday.—Reuters

LONDON: Carlos Alcaraz raced into the Wimbledon third round on Wednesday to set up a mouth-watering duel with fellow crowd-pleaser Frances Tiafoe as Naomi Osaka was sent crashing out in the second round by Emma Navarro of the US, who allowed the Japanese superstar just five games in a one-sided contest.

Alcaraz defeated Australia’s world number 69 Aleksandar Vukic 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 42 winners.

The third-seeded Spaniard’s only moments of concern came in the first set when he let slip a 5-2 lead and found himself 5-6 down with Vukic serving for the opener.

However, the three-time major winner steadied the ship to race away to victory against a player who got the better of him in qualifying at the 2020 French Open.

Alcaraz next faces Tiafoe, the American player he defeated in five sets in the semi-finals of the 2022 US Open on his way to his first Grand Slam triumph.

“I’m going for him,” said Alcaraz, who is bidding to become just the sixth man after Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back to back.

“I’m ready to play a really high level of tennis and hopefully take him.”

Tiafoe made the third round by seeing off Borna Coric in straight sets.

Eccentric Fabio Fognini of Italy needed a clutch of match points to knock out eighth-seeded Casper Ruud 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3.

“I’m disappointed that I lost but I know my abilities on this surface and I’m trying to be realistic,” said Ruud, whose best results have come on claycourts and hardcourts.

“I just find it difficult. I find it fun as a challenge and I try my best every year. I haven’t given up on it yet but it’s really difficult for me somehow, the movement and feeling confident out there.”

The 37-year-old Fognini, sporting bleach-blond hair, twice served for the match from 5-2 up in the third set before sealing victory over the three-time Grand Slam runner-up in the fourth set.

“It just shows why I love and hate this sport,” said Fognini.

Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 US Open champion, came back from dropping the first set and facing two set points in the second to see off Alexandre Muller of France 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 7-5.

Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic had a gruelling match against Belgium’s David Goffin but the Czech ultimately prevailed 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 1-6, 7-6(5/10).

Meanwhile, Osaka, playing her first Wimbledon since 2019, went down 6-4, 6-1 on Centre Court in less than an hour.

The two players were level-pegging at 3-3 in the first set before 17th-ranked Navarro broke to love and went on to take the first set.

Navarro pounced at the start of the second set, breaking twice to race into a 4-0 lead and broke again to seal the match.

In Wednesday’s other matches, world number two and US Open champion Coco Gauff cruised into the third round with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Romanian qualifier Anca Todoni.

“I’m happy with the way I played, could have been cleaner on some points,” said Gauff, who broke her 19-year-old opponent five times.

The American, who made her career breakthrough at Wimbledon as a 15-year-old qualifier in 2019, goes on to face British qualifier Sonay Kartal, the world number 298. Kartal downed Clara Burel of France 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

Wild card Emma Raducanu of Britain, who won the US Open in 2021, recorded a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 win over Elise Mertens.

The Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova, 19, lost to Bianca Andreescu of Canada 3-6, 6-7(5/7).

Murray teams up with Raducanu**

In a development earlier on Wednesday, Andy Murray is teaming up with Raducanu at Wimbledon as the pair were granted a wild card just a day after Murray, 37, pulled out of the singles due to his failure to regain full fitness following a back operation.

Murray will play in an eye-catching all-British mixed doubles pairing as part of his farewell to the tournament.

The two-time Wimbledon singles champion will also play men’s doubles with his brother Jamie with the pair launching their campaign on Centre Court on Thursday.

The mixed doubles event starts the following day.

Murray played mixed doubles with Serena Williams in 2019, making it to the third round, but it will be a Grand Slam debut in doubles for Raducanu.

Murray and Raducanu face a tough opening round contest against Marcelo Arevalo and Zhang Shuai.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2024

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