WIMBLEDON, England – As the sun set on the opening week of Wimbledon, about the only seeding that truly signified something was No. 1.
That is the number beside the names of American Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who turned in nearly perfect performances back-to-back Saturday on Centre Court to cap nearly perfect runs to the fourth round at the All England Club, while chaos reigned all around them.
In the final match of the fortnight’s first half, played with the roof closed and lights glowing to make sure it would get done as darkness approached, defending champion Williams used eight aces and 11 return winners to power past 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-2, 6-0.
“She didn’t lose energy, and her game, I think, is getting better, day after day. Not better in general, but adapting to the surface. Everything is getting better,” said French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams over the past year, when she is 77-3. “So now let’s enter into the most important part of the tournament. … Now the matches are going to get tougher and tougher.”
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Might not necessarily have been a fair fight, considering Date-Krumm is ranked 84th and was the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon in the 45-year Open era. Never better than a semifinalist at a Grand Slam tournament, she played Williams evenly for about three games, before the 16-time major champion took over.
“She has so much power, speed,” Date-Krumm said. “She has everything.”
Williams’ easy victory was preceded by 2011 champion Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 triumph over 28th-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France. Djokovic compiled a remarkable ratio of 38 winners to three unforced errors. Djokovic’s initial miscue of his own doing did not come until the third set’s sixth game, when he double-faulted while ahead 4-1, 40-love.
“Everything went my way,” Djokovic said. “I did everything I wanted to do.”
Both he and Williams could say that about the way they handled matters throughout Week 1.
Williams has won all six sets she has played, allowing opponents a total of 11 games. Djokovic has won all of his nine sets, dropping 29 games.
“You don’t want to play your best tennis in the first round and continue to go down. I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on,” said Williams, whose 34-match winning streak is the longest for a woman since older sister Venus Williams had a run of 35 in 2000. “I try to find out something I can improve on from each match so I can do it better in the next round.”
In other words: Look out, Sabine Lisicki, the 23rd-seeded German who will meet Williams on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.
Up next for Djokovic after Sunday’s traditional day of rest is another German, 13th-seeded Tommy Haas, a 35-year-old who is enjoying a career renaissance and eliminated Feliciano Lopez of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.
Take a glance around, and a high seeding has mattered little, with the notable exception of No. 2 Andy Murray of Britain, Djokovic’s potential opponent in the final. Indeed, in many cases, any seeding at all has guaranteed nothing. The men’s Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are all gone, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with their 29 combined major titles. The women’s Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 are out, too, including four-time major champion Maria Sharapova of Russia.
Even during victories Saturday, both No. 4-seeded players, David Ferrer of Spain and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, looked shaky. Ferrer, the French Open runner-up this month, was treated for blisters on his right foot while coming back to beat No. 26 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Radwanska, who lost to Serena Williams in last year’s Wimbledon final, was pushed to three sets by 18-year-old American Madison Keys before winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Fresh faces among the women include 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since 1998; 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico; and 20-year-old Sloane Stephens of the United States, who will face Puig on Monday.
Stephens, seeded 17th, has advanced to the second week of all three majors this year.
“It’s been good,” she said. “I played the Slams well. I’m excited to be in the second week again.”