“I’m really happy I finally broke this wall,” says Sabalenka

  • Matt Trollope

Ash Barty, Aryna Sabalenka, Karolina Pliskova, Ons Jabeur and Matteo Berrettini were the first players to win their fourth-round matches on ‘Manic Monday’. 

And this quintet had one milestone in common – each player had advanced to their first ever Wimbledon quarterfinal.

They were later joined in the last eight by Karen Khachanov, Denis Shapovalov, Marton Fucsovics, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Viktorija Golubic and Alja Tomljanovic, who also notched their first Wimbledon quarterfinals on an inspiring day at SW19. 

REPORT: Wimbledon champs Federer, Djokovic, Kerber into quarters

For No.2 seed Sabalenka, it was an even more significant achievement; her three-set victory over Elena Rybakina sent her into her first quarterfinal at any of the sport’s four major tournaments.

Serving for the match at 5-3 in the third set and nearing a breakthrough in her 15th Grand Slam main-draw appearance, Sabalenka admitted the occasion almost overwhelmed her.

“In the last game when I was up 30-0 I was … almost crying because, like, on that moment I felt like everything is going well, I kind of few points from my first personal goal in the Grand Slams,” said Sabalenka, who had lost in her two other previous trips to the last 16 at a major.

“But then I cooled down and understand this is not the final goal, there is a match tomorrow, and this is not the moment where I can cry. I kind of hold the breath for a second, then I was smiling.

“Of course I'm really happy. But like I said before, this is not my final goal. I'm trying to be happy but at the same time be focused and be ready for the next one because it's also not easy match."

She added, with a smile: “But of course I'm really happy I finally broke this wall. I'm in the quarterfinals. Really looking forward for the next match. Hopefully I can keep going.”

Jabeur sets sights further

Sabalenka’s next opponent is Jabeur, who defeated Iga Swiatek 5-7 6-1 6-1.

It marks Jabeur’s third straight over a Grand Slam champion – after victories over Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza – and sees her become the first Arab woman to feature among the last eight at Wimbledon.

After also reaching the same stage at Australian Open 2020, Jabeur feels she is building towards something special.

“This time is different. This time I been going to the second week almost every Grand Slam right now, being more consistent. So I think everybody was kind of expecting me to be in the second week,” Jabeur said.

“My goal is to break this quarterfinal and be able to go to semi, and why not the final? I'm enjoying my time here in Wimbledon, enjoying the grass a lot.

“I always want to say that grass is my favourite surface, but I cannot really because there is only, like, two or three tournaments per year on grass. But I like to think of myself as a player that adapts very well to all the surfaces.

“I want to have the whole package so I'll be ready for any type of player.”

She will need to be ready against Sabalenka, one of the more physically-imposing, powerful players in the women’s game who could well play with more freedom after breaking her fourth-round duck. 

“I think it's a big, big challenge for both of us. We have different styles. She likes to hit hard. I like to change the rhythm. It's going to be honestly an interesting match,” Jabeur said.

“We practised together here. She's honestly an amazing player. She can put pressure on the opponent.

“I'm going to try to be ready. I'm going to try to be as low as I can and try to return every ball.”

Berrettini hitting highest level

The Italian No.1 was favoured to do well at Wimbledon after winning the ATP title at Queen’s Club.

And he extended his winning streak – nine matches in a row, as well as 11 consecutive sets won – with a commanding 6-4 6-3 6-1 triumph over Ilya Ivashka.

He faces Auger-Aliassime for a chance to reach his second Grand Slam semifinal; he progressed to the same stage of the 2019 US Open.  

“I feel I am playing for sure the best tennis of my career,” Berrettini declared. 

“(In) 2019 I was playing good, but everything was kind of new. I had to adjust a little bit.”

“Now I have more confidence for sure, more experience as well. I know I can achieve my best results like I'm doing quarters in Paris, quarters here. 

“Obviously the tournament is not done yet. I'm really looking forward to achieving even more.”

Barty continues dream run

Speaking of adjusting, few players to so better than world No.1 Barty, who was a point away from trailing 2-5 in the first set against Barbora Krejcikova.

The Australian then settled into the match and improved her level as the contest unfolded, eventually ending the Roland Garros champion’s 15-match winning streak with a 7-5 6-3 win.

She became the first Australian woman in 21 years to advance to the Wimbledon quarterfinals; a few hours later, Berrettini’s partner Tomljanovic joined her to set up the first all-Aussie women’s Wimbledon quarterfinal since 1980.

“In a sense of being in the quarter(finals), I'm happy. I'm excited. It's another steppingstone for me. It's another first,” Barty said. 

“It's kind of going to be a new situation, a new scenario, one that I'm going to look forward to. I'm going to enjoy it no matter what. 

“I think it's a steppingstone to what is kind of one of my biggest dreams.”