One of the criticisms of show court scheduling at slams has always been that potential exciting matches miss out at the expense of one sided affairs with the stars. While there has been a top name on each side on Centre Court departing, both were seen as fairly big shocks. To open Friday’s schedule, Victoria Azarenka and Heather Watson face off in what could be a fairly evenly matched affair.
Azarenka had returned way ahead of schedule from the birth of her son, playing Mallorca a few weeks back. She was blasted off the court by Ana Konjuh, looking a step slow and lacking much of the intensity that made her such a great player in the past. It reduced expectations for her coming into the tournament and that seemed reasonable after she went a set down against American CiCi Bellis in round one. She came back to win, looking much improved on that Konjuh loss before defeating Elena Vesnina in round two.
It was a confident performance against the 15th seed, facing and saving her only break point faced while hitting 26 winners in a 6-3 6-3 victory although she admits there is still room for improvement.”I could have played a little better on the return, but she also served really well. I felt she was going for her first serve and for her second serve with a good pace and mixing it up really well. But overall, I felt like I played really good on the important moments which gave me opportunities to win comfortably today.” she said afterwards.
Watson took her good form into Wimbledon after making the semi finals of Eastbourne. Maryna Zanevska was defeated in straight sets on day 1 of the tournament before Watson pulled off a big win in round two, defeating Anastasija Sevastova in fairly dominant fashion. She needed just 61 minutes to beat the Mallorca champion and 18th seed. It’s the third time she has made the third round here but the competition will be just as intense for her this time round two. She lost to finalist Agnieszka Radwanska in 2012 and champion Serena Williams in 2015 at this stage of the tournament.
Azarenka looks to be regaining her swagger if her last three sets are anything to go by and with the two Czech favourites out of the tournament, she may well see herself as a contender to win it all. The British crowd got well behind Watson in her match with Serena Williams and almost willed her to victory on that occasion.
Prediction – Victoria Azarenka in three sets