Wimbledon Day 4: Rybakina escapes Cornet trap

Reigning champion tested in second set but safely moves into round three

Elena Rybakina, Wimbledon 2023, second round©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

A jam-packed Thursday at Wimbledon saw all first round matches finally completed, along with a host of second rounds.

Here's what you may have missed from Day 4 at SW19.

Rybakina passes Cornet test

Defending champion Elena Rybakina came through an eventful second round, which saw her opponent Alize Cornet take a nasty fall before completing a 6-2, 7-6(2) victory over the French veteran.

The second set alone lasted 82 minutes and saw the third-seeded Rybakina commit an uncharacteristic 32 unforced errors.

Cornet – a self-described giant-slayer – has a history of pulling off big upsets at Wimbledon, having snapped Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at the Championships last year, and having defeated a top-seeded Serena Williams here back in 2014.

But Rybakina would not suffer a similar fate, as she saved all six break points she faced during the match to move into a third round meeting against home favourite Katie Boulter.

Wawrinka sets up Djokovic clash

Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic have squared off 26 times on tour, with Djokovic leading their head-to-head 20-6.

“Don’t tell me the (head-to-head) score!” Wawrinka told interviewer Karthi Gnanasegaram when she mentioned his long rivalry with the Serb, who happens to be his next opponent in Wimbledon’s third round.

“I will enjoy if I don’t get killed,” laughed the Swiss.

“He’s been an amazing champion to watch, the way he’s playing, it’s always special. But we never played on grass and I’m quite happy to have the chance to play against him on grass at least one time before I finish playing. It’s going to be a big challenge.

“Hopefully I can play a higher level and be competitive with the match. I’m going to, like always I did against him, try to push the maximum and we’ll see what happens.”

The 38-year-old Wawrinka took out No.29 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in second-round action on Thursday and is through to a Grand Slam third round for the first time since Roland-Garros 2020.

The three-time major winner hadn’t made it past the second round at Wimbledon since 2015 and admits his chances will be slim against Djokovic, who is going for a fifth consecutive triumph at SW19, and eighth overall.

“There's zero opportunity to win Wimbledon for me, I think," said Wawrinka.

“It's going to be a difficult challenge. Hopefully I can make a competitive match, but if you will look at recent results, I don't really stand a chance.”

Murray-Tsitsipas suspended for curfew

The feature match of the day on Centre Court saw home hero Andy Murray go up 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-4 against No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas under the lights before the clash was suspended ahead of Wimbledon's 11pm curfew.

Murray is chasing the 200th Grand Slam match-win of his career while Tsitsipas is trying to make the third round at the Championships for just the third time in six appearances.

The Scottish three-time major winner had a scary moment late in the third set as he fell and screamed in pain but managed to get up and close out the set before play was halted.

Comeback of the day

Croatian Donna Vekic looked down and out when she trailed former US Open champion Sloane Stephens 4-6, 2-5 in their second round on Thursday.

But the No.20 seed somehow turned things around and walked away a winner, moving into the Wimbledon third round for the first time since 2018.

An emotional Vekic couldn’t hold back tears during her on-court interview.

“I always said to my team that I think Sloane is one of the best players in the world and I think she definitely showed that today. It was an incredibly tough match today and I honestly cannot believe I won,” said Vekic, who faces Czech lefty Marketa Vondrousova next.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s world No.59 Mikael Ymer rallied back from two-sets-to-love down to upset last year’s quarter-finalist and No.9 seed Taylor Fritz 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 and reach the Wimbledon third round for the first time on his third appearance.

The 24-year-old Ymer next faces Daniel Elahi Galan for a spot in the second week.

Quote of the day

“I said to my mum this morning, she doesn’t like watching, so I said to her look, I’ve already won £80 grand this week so you can chill out a bit.”

– British wildcard and world No.142 Liam Broady was pressure-free entering his second-round clash with No.4 seed Casper Ruud.

The affable lefty needed three hours and 27 minutes to pull off the biggest victory of his career 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 over Ruud and will next take on Denis Shapovalov, whom he described as a “mercurial talent”.

It was a difficult day for Roland-Garros finalists as Karolina Muchova also crashed out, losing her postponed first round 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 to last year's quarter-finalist Jule Niemeier.

Svitolina books Kenin meeting

Elina Svitolina’s impressive run of results since she came back from maternity leave continues as the Ukrainian punched her ticket to the Wimbledon third round for just the third time in nine appearances with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 victory over No.28 seed Elise Mertens on Thursday.

A semi-finalist at the All England Club in 2019, Svitolina has gone up from outside the top 1000 to 76 in the world in less then three months, lifting the trophy in Strasbourg and making the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros before shifting her focus to the grass.

“I expected to play well, playing for so many years in the top level, you want to play well, you want to come back to that level, you want to play in the big stages, win these big matches,” Svitolina said of her comeback.

“So you kind of expect, but in a way, of course, is very difficult road to come back to your best form, to your best game.

“I just tried to not be so hard on myself when I was not winning so many matches (at the beginning). I knew that I was playing the right way. And now everything is back to good, and I'm feeling that I'm in a good form right now. Since Strasbourg I have been striking the ball really well and feeling really well.

“I cannot compare it to what it was before the pregnancy. Now is very different. It's like something new in my game. Also my mindset is very fresh now, I'm really motivated like never before.”

Svitolina’s next opponent is on a comeback trail of her own. In 2020, Sofia Kenin was the champion at the Australian Open and runner-up at Roland-Garros but has struggled with injuries and form and is making her way back. She had to make it through the qualifying rounds at Wimbledon and has now picked up a fifth consecutive victory to set up a meeting with Svitolina.