After one of the most upset filled Wimbledon’s of recent histories, 2016 runner-up and 11th seed Angelique Kerber finds herself the highest seed left in the top half of the women’s draw. Only two others remain. Standing between the German and a place in the last eight is the talented Swiss Belinda Bencic, who was champion at the Canadian Open in 2015 and ranked 7th in the world as recently as February 2016. Who will come out on top?
Bencic and Kerber have met three times on Tour and it is not a matchup the higher-ranked player has enjoyed, with Kerber losing all three. Their first meeting came in 2014 in the third round of the US Open in New York, where Bencic ran out a 6-1 7-5 victor. She backed that up with another win on US soil a year later in Cincinnati, beating Kerber in the first round 7-5 6-3. Bencic scored a third straight sets win by downing Kerber in Fed Cup action 7-6 6-3 in 2016.
Path to the fourth round
Kerber, fresh from a semifinal run in Eastbourne, began her campaign by beating 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva 7-5 6-3, the first time two former finalists have ever met in first round action in the women’s draw at the Championships. She backed that win up by recovering from a set down to beat American teenager Claire Liu, who last year won the junior title in SW19, 3-6 6-2 6-4. That set up a clash with Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka, who Kerber dismissed 6-2 6-4.
Bencic, now ranked world #56 down 49 places from her career high, opened her Wimbledon with one of the first of the many upsets last week, defeating sixth seed Caroline Garcia in straight sets 7-6 6-3. She was overwhelmed in the first set of her second round clash with Alison Riske, but hung tough to save match points and stay alive, winning through 1-6 7-6 6-2. Bencic was more comfortable in dispatching 27th seed Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 7-6 to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon for the second time.
How do they match up?
Central to Kerber’s considerable success throughout her career has been her accurate hitting off both wings and impressive defensive skills. Her best shot is her forehand, which she hits particularly well when on the move. Kerber has served fairly well so far at this year’s Championships, with her left-handedness aiding her in that department. Against Osaka she was almost unchallenged on serve, winning 85% of the points behind her first delivery and not dropping serve throughout the match.
Bencic’s strengths lie in similar areas to Kerber’s, with both women moving well and generally combining accuracy and power off the ground to good effect. But where the German favours her forehand side, Bencic’s best shot is her backhand. She is adept at taking the ball on the rise and striking it with real purpose, which has proven invaluable this year on the unusually high-bouncing Wimbledon courts.
Though Bencic has won all their previous Tour meetings, Kerber does have experience of beating the Swiss, having defeated Bencic in the Hopman Cup final earlier this year. She has also arguably been playing the better tennis, particularly after her excellent victory against the dangerous and powerful Osaka. That, combined with her greater grass court pedigree, should just tip the scales in her favour. Expect Kerber to advance after a three-set battle.