Completing the third round of the women’s doubles event was supposed to be a straight-forward task for the No.1 and No.2 seeds, contesting the last matches left to determine quarter-final line-up.
But while the No.2 seeds Czechs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka comfortably secured their passage into the last eight, top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci were sensationally ousted from The Championships.
The Italian duo, winners at the Australian Open this year as well as at the French and US Opens in 2012, were reeled in by German-Czech pairing Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, winning the first set before falling. Wimbledon remains the only major doubles trophy missing from their cabinets.
However, that same trophy has hardly looked more attainable for Hlavackova and Hradecka, whose two main rival teams no longer block their path to victory.
One of those teams is, obviously, the Italians, who stymied them in the final in New York last year. The other was Serena and Venus Williams, who defeated them in the title matches at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in 2012.
Despite losing in those finals on Centre Court, what the Czechs did prove by making it that far is that they are extremely comfortable on the grass.
And it showed in their 6-4, 6-3 victory over Spaniards Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Carla Suarez Navarro, whom they eliminated in one hour and eight minutes.
With Hradecka’s powerful serve and flat double-fisted groundstrokes coupled with Hlavackova’s flat power and polish around the net, they overwhelmed their diminutive opponents, whose games are obviously better suited to their native clay.
The Czechs overcame spirited resistance in the first set to score a late break, and broke once more early in the second set en route to victory, all the way smiling and bouncing around Court 18 as they booked a quarter-final date with Australian No.12 seeds Ash Barty and Casey Dellacqua.
Over on No.3 Court, Errani and Vinci were mired in a battle. They had taken the opening set comfortably, their court nous and cohesiveness proving too much for the erratic No.16 seeds. Getting a far higher number of returns into play, they kept the German-Czech combo under constant pressure by forcing them to play an extra ball.
But when Goerges and Zahlavova Strycova found their range on their powerful groundstrokes, the tide turned. They broke early on their way to a 3-0, and when the Italians could no longer find holes in their game, frustration boiled over and demonstrative appealing ensued. This seemed to further galvanise Goerges and Zahlavova Strycova, who repeated the pattern in the third.
Leading 5-2, they powered toward the finish line, producing a volley winner to move ahead 40-0. Zahlavova then landed a powerful first serve, smashing a winner off the lofted reply to cement the upset.
They will next face the unseeded pairing of Japan’s Shuko Aoyama and Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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