GREECE’S Maria Sakkari stretches for a return against Emma Raducanu of Britain during their Wimbledon third-round match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.—Reuters
GREECE’S Maria Sakkari stretches for a return against Emma Raducanu of Britain during their Wimbledon third-round match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.—Reuters

LONDON: Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz defeated close friend Frances Tiafoe in a roller-coaster five sets to reach the Wimbledon last 16 on Friday as US Open winner Coco Gauff breezed through.

Alcaraz came through 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 on the back of 16 aces in his 55 winners in a Centre Court thriller that stretched to the best part of four hours.

“Always a big challenge playing against Frances,” admitted Alcaraz, who was also pushed to five sets by the American in the semi-finals of the 2022 US Open on his way to a first Grand Slam title.

“He is a really talented player, really tough to face and he has shown again that he deserves to be at the top and fight for big things.”

Alcaraz, who is bidding to become only the sixth man to capture the French Open and Wimbledon titles back-to-back, has now reached the last 16 of a Slam for the 10th time.

The world number three will next take on either Ugo Humbert of France or Brandon Nakashima of the United States.

Women’s world number two Gauff ended the run of British qualifier Sonay Kartal, who had defied her humble ranking of 298 to reach the third round of a Slam for the first time.

Gauff won 6-4, 6-0, allowing her opponent just eight points in the second set.

Despite the loss, Kartal, who had arrived at the All England Club with just over $18,500 from her 2024 efforts on court, will go away with a windfall of more than $182,000.

“This is my first time playing a British player here so I was little nervous because I knew you’d be for her, which is understandable,” said Gauff. “Thankfully you guys were pretty nice to me so that helped.”

Gauff will face American compatriot Emma Navarro for a place in the quarter-finals. Navarro came from a set down to defeat Russia’s Diana Shnaider 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Tommy Paul, the US men’s 12th seed, made the fourth round for second time with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan.

It was Paul’s eighth successive win on grass after he claimed the Queen’s Club title on the eve of Wimbledon.

“I’m having fun on the grass,” said Paul.

Grigor Dimitrov, who was a semi-finalist 10 years ago, defeated 37-year-old Gael Monfils in straight sets.

Two-time quarter-finalist Madison Keys, the 12th seed, reached the second week for the fifth time with a straight-sets win over Marta Kostyuk.

Keys goes on to face French Open runner-up Jasmine Paolini, who had never won a match at Wimbledon before this year.

Seventh-ranked Paolini saw off former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in straight sets.

Lulu Sun became the first woman from New Zealand since 1959 to reach the last 16 with a straight-sets victory over China’s Zhu Lin.

Sun, 23, who had to come through qualifying to make her debut at the All England Club, won 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (8/6).

Despite her lowly ranking of 123 in the world, Sun had knocked out Chinese eighth seed and Australian Open runner-up Zheng Qinwen in the first round.

Sun, who has a Chinese mother and Croatian father, hopes her win will be big news in the small town of Te Anau on New Zealand’s South Island, where she was born.

The peaceful town boasts a population that hovers around the 3,000 mark.

“Practically more sheep and deer than people,” joked Sun, who next faces Emma Raducanu after the Britain’s former US Open champion downed Greek ninth seed Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3.

In Thursday’s later matches, seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz became the third men’s top-eight player to exit when he retired from his clash against Frenchman Arthur Fils with a knee injury.

Stefanos Tsitsipas was another casualty after the 11th seed from Greece went down 7-6(6), 7-6(10), 3-6, 6-3 to Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori in the evening.

Earlier, Andy Murray and his brother were beaten 7-6(6), 6-4 by Australians Rinky Hijikata and John Peers. Britain’s big day at Wimbledon did not begin in the most convincing fashion as Lily Miyazaki was thumped 6-0, 6-0 by Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.

Cameron Norrie later beat British number one Jack Draper 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(6). Meanwhile Danielle Collins of the US beat Hungary’s Dalma Galfi 6-3, 6-4 and 14th seed Ben Shelton outlasted Lloyd Harris 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(7).

Taylor Fritz, the 13th seed, then saw off Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech 6-,3 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 before Marcos Giron was thumped 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 by German fourth seed Alexander Zverev.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2024

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