Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek – the reigning French Open champions – must improve if they’re to experience straightforward Saturday assignments in round three. Heather Watson’s gritty win over Kaja Juvan means she’s into R4 of a Major for the first time as a 13-year professional, while we’re set for an eagerly-anticipated Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Nick Kyrgios matchup on Day 6 after both won clean on Thursday. Read about all that and more, in this latest SW19 review.
Nadal and Swiatek battling, should you be concerned?
Nadal  bt. Berankis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
First it was Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo, now Ricardas Berankis. Both were expected to be straightforward wins with minimal fuss, but 22-time Major champion Rafael Nadal  has stumbled along – dropping a set apiece – into R3 where he faces Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego next.
His side of the draw has been weakened by two big names withdrawing with positive COVID-19 tests, in Marin Cilic and last year’s runner-up Matteo Berrettini, but that doesn’t diminish assertions the 36-year-old must play his way into form if he’s to go all the way this fortnight.
He won’t want to be out on the grass longer than necessary, and while Sonego is an unpredictable high-quality proposition, the pair haven’t met before. This maiden matchup could easily go the way it did last year for Roger Federer, or a more uncomfortable evening awaits.
Speaking of uncomfortable, Roland Garros champ Iga Swiatek‘s now 37-match winning streak was in serious doubt and she fought well (6-4, 4-6, 6-3) over Dutch lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove – being down a break twice in set one, then saving two break points in the decider.
Her next task on grass, a surface well-documented as not her favourite? Experienced Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, a giantkiller in her own right, who reached a career-best Slam result in Melbourne this year, will fancy her chances here and is playing with nothing to lose. Oooh.
John Isner was frank with his assessment after downing Andy Murray: he hadn’t been good enough to get out on Centre Court and have these big-match chances.
Italy’s exciting young hope Jannik Sinner  bested him in straight-sets (6-4, 7-6, 6-3), so the big-serving American is no longer a danger man atop the men’s draw.
Up next for Sinner? Spain’s rising star Carlos Alcaraz, in a match that’s sure to set tongues wagging after the fifth seed dropped just six games against Germany’s Oscar Otte (6-3, 6-1, 6-2).
I waxed lyrical about Frances Tiafoe and he rallied from a set down, eventually outplaying dangerous Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik (3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4), and has another tough unseeded opponent in R4: David Goffin – who did similar against France’s Ugo Humbert (4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-5).
Britain’s number one Cameron Norrie dropped just five games against Ryan Peniston‘s conqueror Steve Johnson, and after two Spaniards, the 27-year-old now faces his second successive American in Tommy Paul  after he ended Jiri Vesely‘s run (6-3, 6-2, 6-2).
On Tsitsipas-Kyrgios, with the latter withdrawing from doubles… and revealing this Major is his best opportunity to win a Grand Slam… I leave you with this brief (but telling) clip:
Watson vaults into unfamiliar territory
Watson bt. Juvan 7-6, 6-2
In 2012, she was blasted away by that tournament’s eventual runner-up and now-retired Polish star Agniezka Radwanska . Three years later came that heartbreaking match many will never forget, losing 7-5 in the deciding set to subsequent champion Serena Williams.
2017, she lost 6-4 in the third against three-time Major champion Victoria Azarenka. So when you look at history, potential deep runs were dented by some of the best in the sport.
Perhaps I’ll revisit this in more detail later but it’d be remiss of me not to highlight the lows along the way, false starts, injuries and more besides. Before this week began, Heather Watson had a 14-18 singles record in 2022, so you can excuse the scepticism surrounding a long run here.
It’s a shame there’s no ranking points on offer at SW19 this year, otherwise the 30-year-old would be flying up the ladder and towards her career-best #38. Nonetheless, she’s taking everything in stride and relishing the acclaim her play has longed to receive.
She was helped by some iffy serving (5 double-faults), but Watson emerged a worthy winner and exacted revenge against Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan after just over 100 minutes played on Court One.
The statistics show there wasn’t much in it (30 winners to 27, 20 unforced errors to Juvan’s 21) and that was evidenced by a competitive first set which needed a tiebreak to settle them – the 21-year-old had been down 6-3, saved three set points, but couldn’t claw back the deficit.
Watson took over early in set two and, coupled with some alarming misses from her opponent, charged to a 5-0 lead. She saved six break points but tightened briefly as the finish line neared, just as it seemed as though Juvan was stirring for a comeback with some overdue shot-making.
Up next, Watson will play another youngster in Anett Kontaveit‘s conqueror Julie Niemeier on Sunday – who needed three sets to eventually overcome Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko (6-4, 3-6, 6-3).
That side of the draw continues to open up, after Maria Sakkari  – a Major semi-finalist at the US Open and Roland Garros last year – lost 6-3, 7-5 vs. Germany’s experienced Tatjana Maria.
The 33-year-old, who now finds herself in the same situation as Watson, will play 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko later this weekend for a place in a maiden quarter-final.
Elsewhere at the bottom of the draw…
Berlin titlist Ons Jabeur  has now won eight matches on the bounce (ten, counting doubles with Serena at Eastbourne), after dropping just five games against France’s Diane Parry.
She’ll play Elise Mertens  after the Belgian, a doubles specialist herself, produced a surprising straight-sets scalp (6-4, 7-5) against 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be though because from a consistency standpoint, it marks the fourth consecutive fourth-round berth at a Major for the 26-year-old.
Watson-Niemeier was certainly not in the predictor on Day One, but it’s also not the only fourth-round battle of two unseeded players, as Emma Raducanu’s conqueror Caroline Garcia backed up her with over a seed with a tightly-contested 7-6, 7-6 win past China’s Shuai Zhang.
She’ll next play Czech woman Marie Bouzkova, who has overcome two American seeds: Danielle Collins  in the first-round and now swatted Alison Riske  aside 6-2, 6-3.
Featured matches to look out for, on Day 6
Coco Gauff  vs. Amanda Anisimova 
Paula Badosa  vs. Petra Kvitova 
Lorenzo Sonego  vs. Rafael Nadal 
Alex de Minaur  vs. Liam Broady
Iga Swiatek  vs. Alize Cornet
Nick Kyrgios vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas 
Harmony Tan vs. Katie Boulter
Alex Molcan vs. Taylor Fritz 
Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Barbora Krejcikova 
I’ll be producing daily round-ups with the latest results, game reports and news at this year’s Wimbledon tournament, so be sure you stay tuned to moandsports.com for the latest coverage.
Picture source: Getty Images