Tennis: Seeded 11th, Kerber becomes standard bearer in top half of Wimbledon draw

Kerber celebrates winning the third round match against Japan's Naomi Osaka.
Kerber celebrates winning the third round match against Japan's Naomi Osaka.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Even in her wildest dreams 11th seed Angelique Kerber could not have imagined that by the end of the first week of this year’s Wimbledon, she would be the highest ranked player left in the top half of the women’s draw.

But after six days of destruction involving the women’s seeds, and with world number one Simona Halep’s demise on Saturday (July 7), Kerber is favourite to reach the final from her section after a 6-2 6-4 win over Japan’s Naomi Osaka.

The German’s win left her among only five of the top 16 seeds to reach the fourth round.

On a hot and sticky day, the players might have thought they were in the Australian outback as barely anyone could be spotted in the 15,000-seater Centre Court as the match clashed with England’s soccer World Cup quarter-final against Sweden.

Even the Royal Box, which had been heaving with sporting greats such as England’s 1966 World Cup-winner Bobby Charlton and Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia for Rafael Nadal’s win minutes earlier, was deserted.

The lack of atmosphere on the Centre Court, however, did not seem to throw Kerber off her stride as she did not face a single break point during her 63-minute outing against Osaka.

Despite emerging unscathed from the seeding carnage, Kerber refused to get carried away over the chances of emulating her run to the 2016 final when she was runner-up to Serena Williams.

“I have my eyes just on my way, on my days, my matches,” said the German, who faces Swiss Belinda Bencic on Monday.

“You can just see how close it is.” SURVIVOR PLISKOVA Czech seventh seed Karolina Pliskova and 13th seed Julia Georges of Germany have survived from the bottom half, while Kerber, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and Russian 14th seed Daria Kasatkina complete the not-so-famous five.

Pliskova is the sole top 10 seeded survivor to make it into round four – a women’s record at any of the four majors since tennis turned professional in 1968.

Seven-times champion Serena Williams is also still in the mix of title contenders but is only seeded 25th as she is on the comeback trail, having taken a year-long maternity break.

The number of giant killers in the draw appears to be multiplying on a daily basis with Grand Slam champions of the calibre of Halep, defending champion Garbine Muguruza, Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova all being felled this week.

Men’s world number one Nadal knows only too well what it is like to face a giant-slayer, having lost to players ranked 100 or lower in four of his five previous appearances, and he had a simple explanation about this year’s run of shocks.

“It’s about the surface. (This) is a tricky surface because we don’t play very often on this surface. All the matches are dangerous. The match is decided in just a few balls (which) is the big difference between clay and here,” said Nadal.

“On clay, you have time. Here, you don’t have time,” added the twice champion who has never gone beyond the fourth round here since finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2011.