Serena wary of Riske factor at Wimbledon

Serena Williams may never get a better chance of equalling Margaret Court’s Grand Slam title record of 24 with the Wimbledon quarter-finals bereft of the leading lights in women’s tennis.

The 37-year-old seven-time champion is moving into something resembling her best form after an unconvincing first week but will not take Tuesday’s quarter-final opponent Alison Riske lightly.

That would be wise after the 29-year-old American ousted world number one Ashleigh Barty in the last 16.

Barty was then followed out of the tournament by third seed Karolina Pliskova, two-time champion Petra Kvitova and 15-year-old Cori Gauff.

Riske was looking forward to facing her American compatriot when she said: “Bring it on!”

Williams knows Riske relatively well — they have played doubles together — and is aware on grass she can hold her own as well as the fact the last time she faced a relatively unheralded American, Sofia Kenin at the French Open, she lost.

“She’s (Riske) a fighter on the court,” said Williams.

“She’s playing really great, especially on the grass. She’s attacking that ball really well. She doesn’t let anything limit her.”

Williams is ominously talking up her improvement as the tournament has gone on after a knee problem affected her clay court campaign.

“The rust is definitely wearing off,” she said.

“Most of all I feel confident that I can actually move and I don’t have to, like, go for winners so soon because I’m in pain.

“It’s like, Oh, now I can just play my game, hit shots, not have to worry about anything else.

“It’s good when your mind is clear and you can just play.”

‘Life is so nice to me’

For Riske, reaching a first Wimbledon quarter-final is an early wedding gift ahead of her marriage which takes place just after the tournament.

“I’m ready for a war (with Williams). She’s the greatest athlete I think that’s ever been on the women’s side,” she said.

Waiting for Williams or Riske could well be Britain’s French Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta, who must beat Czech veteran Barbora Strycova to reach her second Wimbledon semi-final.

Strycova, who beat Konta in their only previous meeting, had been talking of retirement prior to her 17th Wimbledon campaign.

The rest of the quarter-finals have just two seeds involved — number seven Simona Halep and eighth seeded Elina Svitolina.

Former world number one Halep — who has never been beyond the quarter-finals at Wimbledon — plays China’s Zhang Shuai, who was close to retirement in 2015, while Svitolina takes on Pliskova’s conqueror Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.

Zhang’s change of mind over retiring was down to advice from her doubles partner and close friend Australian Sam Stosur.

“That got me to thinking maybe, okay, I’m going to the Australian Open one more time, one more try,” she recalled of the chat with Stosur.

“I’m really, really happy I tried one more time, and also we won this year in the Australian Open doubles.

“So life is so nice to me.”

Of all the players to go out on Monday, Barty’s is undoubtedly the biggest boon for Williams.

Having looked so assured in the first week — and a decent bet to end nearly four decades of Australian being without a women’s singles champion — she lacked the answers when required as Riske fought back to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

There was one consolation for Barty as Pliskova could have taken her number one spot but the Czech third seed went out as well in a marathon duel, beaten by Muchova 4-6, 7-5, 13-11.

“It is a tough one to swallow but I lost to a better player,” said Barty, who had been hoping to become the first Australian champion since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her second title in 1980.

Muchova, meanwhile can call upon star power of Hollywood Rebel Wilson, the actress from Bridesmaids and the Pitch Perfect series of movies.

“It’s crazy. She texted me last year when I beat Muguruza (at the US Open). I was, like, Wow. I was surprised about that.

“Yeah, she’s just super chill and super nice person.”

Pirate Irwin
Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening. 

Advertisting

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

We need to ask awkward questions about our schools

Ignore the language used in brochures and on open days and be vigilant about the details

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Ramaphosa enters the fray in fight between Gordhan and Mkhwebane

The president said his court case is “unfortunate” and a “measure of last resort”
Advertising

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.