It’s never a good idea to get too far ahead of yourself in sport, but who could blame Australian tennis fans for contemplating a possible blockbuster Wimbledon showdown between golden girl Ash Barty and superstar Serena Williams.
Williams may – by her own measure – be lacking for match time, but the chance of the pair meeting in the quarter-finals is clearly playing on both their minds no matter the usual platitudes about tackling the next opponent first.
Williams lavished praise on Barty after her win over German against Julia Goerges, taking her into the round of 16 for the 16th time.
Without a match since the French Open, the 23-time grand slam champion has looked out of sorts, but still has the power and the will to drive home a result.
And Barty as the new world No.1 has finally caught 37-year-old Williams’ attention, with the American claiming before the tournament that she wasn’t even aware Barty was world No.1.
“I’ve always from the day I played her in Australia had a tremendous amount of respect for her game,” Williams said.
“I just thought she’s just a beautiful player. She has great technique. I love that.
“I’m really a technical player. I like when people have a beautiful game and they do the right techniques. It’s so right up my alley.
“I’ve seen her play a lot recently, too. Like I always say, she’s just someone in the locker room that you just always root for.
“But in general I have been watching her game because I know that she’s a force to be reckoned with. So I’ve been watching a lot.”
Williams meets Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro on Monday, while Barty plays unseeded American Alison Riske after a clinical 6-1 6-1 dispatch of British wildcard Harriet Dart.
Williams also tuned up with her debut doubles pairing with Andy Murray, the power couple beating Andreas Mies and Alexa Guarachi 6-4 6-1.
As for Barty, she’s citing the long-held professionals’ creed of taking it one match at a time.
“I will give the athlete’s answer and say: I’m just going to worry about Alison first,” Barty told reporters when asked about the prospect of facing Williams.
Riske upset Swiss world No.13 Belinda Bencic 4-6 6-4 6-4 to ensure Barty’s seed-free path to at least the last eight.
Millman is ready for a break, then US Open
Beaten but unbowed, John Millman will return to Brisbane confident his Wimbledon run can kickstart another memorable US Open campaign.
Millman went out to big-serving American Sam Querrey 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (10-8) 6-3 in Saturday’s third-round clash and immediately booked flights home for some much-needed rest and recuperation.
Despite breaking Querrey’s serve early on in the match and having a pair of set points in the second set, Millman’s quest for a fourth-round spot at the All England Club for the first time faltered on Court 17.
A philosophical Millman insisted he was happy with his week’s work in south-west London as the giant American, who hurled down 27 aces, continued his outstanding Wimbledon record.
The 31-year-old has already knocked out world No.4 Dominic Thiem in the first round and beat reigning champions Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in 2016 and 2017.
“At a place like this you really want to stay here as long as possible. It’s what you dream of as a kid, playing on this hallowed turf,” Millman said.
I came up against a guy who is a very accomplished grass court player and is in some really good form on a surface he feels really comfortable on.
“I was well aware how the tough the challenge was, but it was close, it really was. It’s those fine margins and I was on the rough end of the stick.
“This tournament was really important for me in turning around a couple of tough draws I have had and getting some momentum back.
“You have ebbs and flows in a season and you have to capitalise when you have an opportunity.
“I was able to do that up until the third round. I would have loved to have gone deeper, but at the end of the day I was one of 32 men remaining in the draw and I can be proud of that.”
After almost four months living out of a suitcase away from home Millman said he was desperate to get back home and then begin preparations for the American swing season in Atlanta on July 22.
“When you are an Australian tennis player we are in a unique situation,” he said.
“I was in Europe before the Monte Carlo Masters in April, which has probably been a little too long.
“Tennis is such a physical game, but also mentally draining.
“I really do feel as if I play my best tennis when I get up for every single point and that is draining.
“I am going to look at some flights later and get home and have a bit of R&R with the family.”
MEN’S FOURTH-ROUND LINE-UP FOR WIMBLEDON ON MONDAY
1-Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Ugo Humbert (FRA)
21-David Goffin (BEL) v Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
26-Guido Pella (ARG) v 15-Milos Raonic (CAN)
23-Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP) v 28-Benoit Paire (FRA)
Sam Querrey (USA) v Tennys Sandgren (USA)
Joao Sousa (POR) v 3-Rafael Nadal (ESP)
8-Kei Nishikori (JPN) v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
Matteo Berrettini (ITA) v 2-Roger Federer (SUI)
WOMEN’S FOURTH-ROUND LINE-UP AT WIMBLEDON ON MONDAY
1-Ashleigh Barty v Alison Riske (USA)
11-Serena Williams v 30-Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP)
19-Johanna Konta (GBR) v 6-Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Barbora Strycova (CZE) v 21-Elise Mertens (BEL)
8-Elina Svitolina (UKR) v 24-Petra Martic (CRO)
Karolina Muchova (CZE) v 3-Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
7-Simona Halep (ROM) v Cori Gauff (USA)
Zhang Shuai (CHN) v Dayana Yastremska (UKR)