Makarova knocks Wozniacki out of Wimbledon

After her Australian Open success in January, Caroline Wozniacki — to the Dane’s relief — won’t ever be asked when she will win a maiden grand slam title.

But the world No. 2 is probably asking herself why she continues to struggle at Wimbledon after being ousted by a familiar and ever dangerous foe, Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4 1-6 7-5 on Wednesday.

Wozniacki has never reached a Wimbledon quarterfinal — losing six times in the fourth round — but had hopes of a longer stay this fortnight after winning the first grass court title of her career in Eastbourne last week.

“I think she played above her level and really raised it and got a little lucky and played well when she needed to,” was Wozniacki’s blunt assessment.

Her sharp words were perhaps an indication of her immense frustration.

“I feel like I could have gone and done something really great here. For her to keep this level, I would be very surprised if you saw her go far,” said Wozniacki.

Wozniacki isn’t the only big name to crash out in the first week of Wimbledon as the seeds continued to tumble in the women’s draw.

Upsets aplenty

Half of the top 10, to be more precise, have now bid adieu to the All England Club, including pre-tournament favorite Petra Kvitova. Another multiple grand slam champion, Maria Sharapova, joined Kvitova on the sidelines Tuesday following a marathon loss to a 132nd-ranked qualifier, Vitalia Diatchenko.

“Everyone is playing hard,” assessed Serena Williams, who comfortably progressed on Centre Court while her good friend Wozniacki toiled on Court 1. “No one is going out there and saying, ‘Oh, I have to lose because I’m playing so-and-so today. These women are going out there and they’re fighting. They’re coming out to show that, I belong out here.”

Wozniacki memorably rallied from a 5-1 final set deficit and saved two match points against little known Jana Fett in the second round in Melbourne, before going all the way.

She almost duplicated the feat against Makarova in Wimbledon’s second round, reversing another 5-1 deficit in the third set and fending off five match points.

Prior to that, there was drama as Wozniacki questioned the condition of the court amid a light drizzle and tried to evade flying ants. Yes, flying ants.

Makarova, though, is more seasoned that Fett, having spent time in the top 10.

Now ranked 35th, the Moscow native held firm and converted on her sixth match point courtesy of a swinging volley, then raised her arms in joy and probably relief.

Tough draw

Makarova was arguably the most dangerous unseeded player at Wimbledon, so Wozniacki certainly didn’t benefit from any help from the draw gods.

The left-hander adores the grass, triumphing herself at Eastbourne in 2010 and appearing in nine grass-court quarterfinals, including one at Wimbledon in 2014.

According to the WTA, she has posted the fourth most wins against top-10 opponents at majors among active players.

“I just like big tournaments,” said Makarova. “I definitely have different motivation, different emotions to fight. I’m ready to die to win the match.”

Makarova is also the defending doubles champion at Wimbledon and eliminated Wozniacki at the same stage of last year’s US Open on the Dane’s preferred surface of hard courts.

“There’s 90% of everyone else I would have played today, I feel like I would have won,” said Wozniacki. “The last 10% I feel like I would have had a chance or a good chance. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. Sometimes it just doesn’t flash. Things just don’t add up.

“I played someone who played extremely well.

“I don’t know that she would be able to keep up this level for the rest of the tournament.”

Williams eased past Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova 6-1 6-4 without being broken.

The 23-time grand slam winner claimed 84% of her first serve points, a good sign for the 36-year-old after the pectoral injury that ruled the American out of a blockbuster fourth-round clash with Sharapova at Roland Garros.

Served better

“I served a little more consistent,” than in the first round, said Williams. “Still want to work on getting my first serves in more.”

Williams should never be discounted at grand slams, this Wimbledon included even if it marks only her fourth tournament back after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September. And all the upsets around her boost her chances of capturing an eighth Wimbledon crown.

Older sister Venus Williams, a five-time Wimbledon winner, had a more difficult outing, needing three sets to see off Romanian qualifier Alexandra Dulgheru 4-6 6-0 6-1.

The score in the third set suggested it was lopsided, but the 38-year-old was forced to produce a majestic backhand volley at 0-30 in the first game and saved a pair of break chances at 1-1.

Roger Federer, meanwhile, has now won 26 straight sets at Wimbledon. The Swiss dispatched men’s Eastbourne finalist Lukas Lacko 6-4 6-4 6-1 in exactly 90 minutes.

The next challenger for the eight-time Wimbledon champion is Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, who saved a match point and withstood 61 aces to beat Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (5-7) 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-4) 13-11.

Milos Raonic, the 2016 finalist, sits in Federer’s half and blasted 34 aces in his 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-4) victory over Australia’s John Millman. One body serve was clocked at 147 miles per hour, to make it one of the fastest serves ever at Wimbledon.

Millman was okay but on Tuesday, a ball girl left the court in tears after she was accidentally struck by a Nick Kyrgios serve.

The rain returned Wednesday evening — rare for London during what has been a spell of warm, bright weather — leading to the suspension of several matches, including John Isner’s tussle with Ruben Bemelmans. Bemelmans leads on serve 4-3 in the fifth set after Wimbledon’s marathon man questioned the accuracy of Hawk-Eye when a call went against him.