Ash Barty has overcome a below-par performance to lead a spectacular Australian charge and advance to the third round at Wimbledon.
Barty endured “double trouble” with her serves and struggled with her rhythm but still manage to prevail in Thursday night’s (Australian time) 6-4 6-3 victory over Russian Anna Blinkova on Centre Court.
The world No.1 was joined by three advancing compatriots: Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth and Ajla Tomljanovic all booked a place in the last-32 at the All England Club.
Anything but convincing, Barty still ultimately had far too much game for the 22-year-old Blinkova, beating the world No.89 in an hour and a half.
Barty, 25, served nine double faults en route to set up a third-round match against Czech Katerina Siniakova.
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Barty had finished her emotional opening-round match against cancer survivor Carla Suarez Navarro with a flourish on a covered Centre Court, and was expected to shine in the open air.
But the Queenslander, who is aiming to emulate the feat of her hero Evonne Goolagong Cawley on the 50th anniversary of her win, struggled to find any rhythm with her groundstrokes in the opening set and delivered three double faults in her opening service game.
She eventually earned a key third break in the ninth game before serving out to love, clenching her fist when she sealed the stanza.
In another day of upsets, third seed Elina Svitolina was toppled in straight sets by Magda Linette – further opening up the draw for the Australian.
Six of the top 10 seeds have already departed in the women’s draw, meaning eight of the top 11 women in the WTA rankings are out as Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka did not enter.
Thompson took six years to register his first Wimbledon win – and just another day to snare his second as he continued his superb form by stunning former world No.4 Kei Nishikori 7-5 6-4 5-7 6-3.
On another superb day for the game in Australia, the country’s No.2 woman player Ajla Tomljanovic also booked a pace in the last-32 with a 6-4 0-6 6-3 win over Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Duckworth made it to the third round of a grand slam for the first time in his 12-year professional career after a win over former All England Club semi-finalist Sam Querrey 7-5 6-7 (7-4) 6-3 6-2.
Thompson, a good mover and sharp volleyer, had strangely struggled at Wimbledon, losing at the first hurdle every year since 2016.
But after his epic five-set first-round win over 12th seed Casper Ruud, he turned it on once more against the former US Open finalist.
Nishikori, who reached the last eight at Wimbledon on his last two visits, looked strangely out of sorts and rarely landed a blow in the first two-and-a-half sets against the world No.78.
Thompson was so dominant that the Japanese failed to raise a break point until 2-4 down in the third set.
But when Nishikori turned it on, he turned it on in style.
The former US Open finalist broke Thompson to love, reeling off a series of winners and also taking full advantage of a double fault to ultimately get the set back on level pegging.
The second break came and with it the set, an increasingly frustrated Thompson getting a warning for thrashing a ball into the next suburb.
While Nishikori continued to peel off winners, errors continued to flow, with Thompson sealing an early break in the fourth.
It was quickly handed back but Nishikori’s listless afternoon continued when he was broken to love in the eighth game – and this time Thompson made no mistake to serve out the contest.
Duckworth was outstanding against the big-serving American Querrey, keeping him on his toes with plenty of well-placed slice and drop shots and breaking his huge delivery five times.
Duckworth will play Lorenzo Sonego in the last-16 while Thompson will fancy his chances against world No.79 Ilya Ivashka.
Not all good news
Meanwhile, Marc Polmans’ Wimbledon run came to an end in his fifth match, going down to rising Chilean Cristian Garin.
Relative inexperience on grass failed to prove a big enough obstacle for world No.20 Garin who took out a tight second-round encounter 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-5).
Polman had also won three qualifying matches.
Compatriot Alex Bolt couldn’t manage quite as tight a contest, going down to local hope Cameron Norrie in straight sets 6-3 6-1 6-2.