Caroline Wozniacki plays giant-killing Barbora Zahlavova Strycova for a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Monday.
Until Serena Williams’s loss to Alizé Cornet on Saturday, Zahlavova Strycova was responsible for the biggest upset of the tournament so far when she took out Li Na. The second seed was far from her best, mistiming scores of shots and playing the important points poorly, but Zahlavova Strycova produced a wonderful display of all-court tennis to keep Li off her rhythm. She was particularly effective at the net, proving that her runner-up finish in Birmingham two weeks ago was no fluke.
Wozniacki’s route to the last 16 has been less headline-grabbing tennis-wise, but impressive nonetheless. She has dropped only 11 games in three matches and looked fully at ease on the grass. She was especially strong in her second round clash with Naomi Broady, winning 89% of first serve points and making just two unforced errors.
Wozniacki’s Wimbledon, along with a semi-final run at Eastbourne, marks a much-needed uptick in fortunes for the former world number one. Having struggled throughout the 2012 and 2013 seasons and the first half of this year, she currently languishes at 16th in the WTA standings. This fourth round match is a highly winnable one for her, and a victory would push her back towards the upper echelons of the game.
Zahlavova Strycova and Wozniacki have met three times before, with the Czech failing to win a set on either clay or hard courts. The triumph over Li will give her more confidence heading into this encounter, but she will still have to be at the peak of her powers to stand a chance. Unlike Li, Wozniacki will not give Zahlavova Strycova too many free points. She will defend relentlessly and soak up her opponent’s errors, all the while hitting deep to the baseline.
That bodes ill for the unseeded player. Even during her defeat of Li, Zahlavova Strycova hit 31 unforced errors. A similar statistic on Monday will hand the advantage to Wozniacki, an experienced battler and closer. Zahlavova Strycova is a solid player and has earned her place in the second week of Wimbledon 2014, but there is a reason the 28-year-old has never cracked the top 30.
Prediction: Wozniacki in straight sets.