China’s Peng Shuai makes exit as order is restored at Wimbledon
Chinese star loses to second seed Halep, who proves too strong in third round match as Japan’s Nishikori’s misery at the All England club continues
Second seed Simona Halep brought the Wimbledon women’s draw to order on Friday after recent upsets with a 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) win over China’s Peng Shuai.
The 25-year-old Romanian, who could capture the No 1 spot if she reaches the semi-finals at Wimbledon, wore down her 31-year-old opponent with heavy groundstrokes from the baseline, clipping the lines with her penetrating forehands.
Looking to assuage the disappointment of losing the French Open final last month to Jelena Ostapenko from a set and 3-0 up, Halep did not have an easy ride on a sweltering Court Two.
Peng, ranked 37 and no slouch on grass after winning the doubles title here in 2013, broke back to force the tiebreak when Halep looked to be cruising home in the second set. The pair slugged it out until Halep served an ace for a second match point and Peng sent a ball long to concede the match.
Third seed Karolina Pliskova and 12th seed Kristina Mladenovic lost on Thursday, opening up the women’s competition, that was already missing seven times champion Serena Williams.
Halep meets former world number one Victoria Azarenka in the last 16.
Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori suffered fresh Wimbledon misery as the Japanese star crashed out on Friday, while Victoria Azarenka stepped up her bid to become the first mother to win the All England Club title for 37 years.
Former US Open finalist Nishikori had hoped to finally advance past the fourth round at Wimbledon after years of underachievement.
But the world number nine didn’t even reach the last 16 as he was over-powered 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 by Spanish 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
Nishikori’s third round exit means Wimbledon remains the only Grand Slam he has failed to make the quarter-finals.
It was the 27-year-old’s earliest departure from a major since his first round defeat against Benoit Paire at the 2015 US Open.
“I think he served well every set. It was a tough time on my return game. I had many chances, but I think he played the important points well,” said Nishikori.
For the first time in 20 years, there were four British men and women through to the last 32.
But, with former England captain David Beckham watching from the Royal Box, Heather Watson was unable to maintain Britain’s unexpectedly strong showing as Azarenka edged past the world number 102 with a gritty 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.
“The whole match I was a little bit on the back foot. The second set I started to step in a little bit more,” Azarenka said.
“I was very happy that I was able to find other ways to win.”
Watson’s defeat came just hours after compatriot Aljaz Bedene slumped to a 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-4 against 16th seed Gilles Muller in the men’s tournament.
Luxembourg’s Muller is enjoying a golden period in his previously unremarkable career after finally winning his first two tour titles in Sydney and ‘s-Hertogenbosch this year.
Into the Wimbledon last 16 for the first time in 10 appearances, the 34-year-old will face Rafael Nadal or Karen Khachanov for a place in the quarter-finals.
Former US Open champion Marin Cilic moved into the last 16 with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 win against American 26th seed Steve Johnson.
Croatian seventh seed Cilic will bid for a fourth successive Wimbledon quarter-final berth when he takes on Bautista Agut.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse