Two former Wimbledon semi-finalists took to Court 16 vying for a place in the fourth round of The Championships, as No.9 seed Angelique Kerber eliminated Kirsten Flipkens in a high-octane 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Despite 38 winners to Kerber’s 15, the German came from behind to reach the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the third time this year in a match lasting one hour and 27 minutes.
Both players started promisingly, exchanging probing baseline strokes with an array of sparkling winners. Yet the Belgian would claim an early break in the fourth game, sending an inch-perfect volley over the head of the former US semi-finalist.
Flipkens, who did nothing to suggest she could repeat last years’ semi-final feat with her second round performance, looked much improved here, capitalising on the German’s errors with scintillating forehands to open up a 5-2 lead. A backhand pass helped seal the set in just 29 minutes to the joy of her fans, flying the colours of their native flag on each cheek.
But the highest ranked German in the top 100 seemed unfazed to be behind as she opened the second set with a commanding love hold. She then grabbed a foothold in the match breaking the No.24 seed with some impressive winners of her own before racing to a 3-0 lead inside 10 minutes.
After a resilient hold in the fourth game, Flipkens broke back, firing a forehand winner down the line before a visibly shaken Kerber sent an overhead pass long. The 28-year-old wasted no time in drawing the set level, belting winner No.15 of the match. But Kerber, who eliminated Heather Watson in the second round, proved why she has reached the fourth round or beyond at every major as a break in the eighth game all but sealed the set.
“At the beginning of the match I was a little bit confused, but, yeah, you know, I was just trying to play my game and just keep going,” said Kerber. “I think in the second set I was trying to keep going, to believe in myself that I can turn around the match, and just keep going, be aggressive, and just playing point by point.”
The former world No.5 soon grew in confidence after an early break, with “come on!” the regular call from her side of the net. Meanwhile, Flipkens posed a frustrated figure, muttering words of discontent as she stared deeply into her racket.
The German now had the answers to her opponents blistering forehands. Her timely break in game two, coming courtesy off a double fault, meant she was serving for the match. A brave, long backhand clipped the baseline before a wide backhand drew the match to a close.
“She is a great player,” Kerber added. “She was last year in the semis here and she's playing good on grass. Yeah, she has a big forehand and also a good slice. I think I had good matches in the first week. I'm in the second week right now, so it's good. I'm still trying to improve my tennis and trying to play like, you know, better from the first point.”
The 26-year-old will now face five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round but she insists she will only focus on her game. “I think it will be a nice match. You know, I have nothing to lose, I think. I will go out there, try to enjoy the match, and try to focus just on myself.”
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