Ekaterina Makarova’s numbers are not the most impressive you’ll see in the upper echelons of the women’s game; two career titles, a personal best world No.19 ranking and some deep tournaments runs that are more standout performances than regular feats.
But among those numbers are some impressive wins over higher-ranked opponents; 12 of them, in fact, over top 10 women and four of them occurring at Grand Slam events. Today there was another one as the 26-year-old Russian shocked fourth seed and 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-0 in just 53 minutes.
Makarova’s refusal to be intimidated by an opponent ranked 16 places higher came with a back story. Her last meeting with Radwanska occurred at the same stage of the 2013 US Open and just as she’d done today, she befuddled her opponent with a clever display of aggression and accuracy.
“I just was remembering my emotion and game and how I was playing,” Makarova explained. “It really worked today. And I think I was so solid, so calm, you know, during all the match and all the points. Just wait when it was comfortable and I was aggressive.”
Radwanska, among the most graceful women on court, seemed the novice as Makarova showed her superiority in every department. Hitting 24 winners to Radwanksa’s 10 and recording only six unforced errors, she claimed a break of serve in the seventh game of the first set. By contrast, a double fault on set point from the typically reliable Pole showed just how far she was from her best game.
Makarova quickly strengthened her winning position in the second set, racing to a 3-0 lead and then breaking Radwanska’s serve to love. Rain intervened when she’d extended that lead to 5-0 but any hopes of a Radwanska revival after a near two-hour delay were soon scuttled, the Russian taking just a few minutes to complete her emphatic victory.
With a first Wimbledon quarter-final Makarova can now boast the enviable milestone of having finished in the final eight of three of the four Grand Slams, twice in Australia, where scalps have included Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber. She can’t quite explain why she achieves her best results at the majors. “Maybe I have a different feeling than in other tournaments,” Makarova said.
The Russian will have a chance to improve even further on that Grand Slam record when she meets Lucie Safarova, another left-hander, in the quarter-finals. She’s expecting a tough contest from the Czech, with each player having claimed a win each in their previous two matches.
“She’s playing really good. She also likes grass. She's hitting hard and flat,” Makarova said of that encounter. “I think it will be a good match. I'll talk with my coach. We will decide which tactic we take and we'll see what happens tomorrow.”
Perhaps most ominous for Safarova is that Makarova is starting to feel so at home on grass, the surface on which she also won her first career title at Eastbourne in 2010. “Here I think it's like make me more comfortable, because my parents came and we are in the house. So it's like at home for me. My mom is cooking and we are eating Russian food. It's really comfortable,” she said.
And as those aforementioned numbers grow, so too does Makarova’s composure and confidence. “I have a different feeling now,” she warned. “Before maybe it was feeling like it's kind of over, but now I really want to go forward.”
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