In the three years and 11 grand slam events since Angelique Kerber won Wimbledon, the German has lost in the first round five times and her ranking has fallen from No 2 to No 28. But class and grass-court prowess is an enduring quality and the 33-year-old is duly back at the business end of a grand slam once again.
Kerber’s 6-2, 6-3 win over the Czech, Karolina Muchova, put her through to the last four at Wimbledon for the fourth time. Having shrugged off a poor run of form last month by winning the title in Bad Homburg, the former world No 1 will take on the current No 1, Ashleigh Barty, on Thursday in a bid to reach her third final at SW19.
“I think it’s the grass and you guys,” she said to the crowd inside No 1 Court, which was at full capacity and covered by a roof on another wet day. Kerber later said she had always thought she would find her game sooner rather than later. “I was never stopping believing in myself, in my team,” she said. “I have always [had] in my career some up and downs. I was always believing I can come back because I know what I can [do]. I never stopped believing in myself, how I can play.”
The No 19 seed Muchova, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open in February, was playing in a quarter-final at Wimbledon for the second straight time. The 24-year-old is comfortable on the grass, happy to come forward while using her backhand slice to good effect.
But though she pushed Kerber to deuce in her opening two service games, Muchova dropped her opening serve and was always playing catch-up. Retrieving everything and dictating the rallies at every opportunity, Kerber saved two break points in the seventh game and then broke again to take the first set.
Muchova snatched an early break at 2-1 in the second but could not hold the advantage and Kerber levelled immediately, broke again for 4-2 and then clinched victory on her second match point.
“It was a tight match, she plays really well, especially on grass,” Kerber said. “I knew I had to play my best tennis from the beginning. I’m so happy to be again in the semis, that means a lot to me.”
Barty booked her place in the semi-finals for the first time in her career with a 6-1, 6-3 win over fellow Australian Ajla Tomljanovic. It was always likely to be a step too far for the world No 75, who was appearing in her first grand slam quarter-final. The questionable scheduling on Monday, when she was put on last on No 1 Court against Emma Raducanu, left her little chance to recover.
Watched by her boyfriend, Matteo Berrettini, who will bid for a semi-final spot himself on Wednesday, Tomljanovic recovered from 4-1 down in the second set to get back on serve but Barty broke again and sealed victory with her fifth ace. “It’s exciting,” Barty said. “This is a dream come true, genuinely it is. This is my dream. I’m extremely grateful I’ve got a chance to come out here and do what I’ve worked so hard to do. I’m loving every minute of it.”
Their clash was the first all-Australian quarter-final at Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong beat Wendy Turnbull in 1980, a match won by Goolagong en route to her second Wimbledon title. Barty, whose scallop dress at this year’s event is an homage to Goolagong, is the woman to beat, but she knows what Kerber can do, having lost three of their five matches.
“It’s the ultimate test,” Barty said after her win on Centre Court. “Angie’s had success here and had the best fortnight. I love that match-up. She’s an incredible competitor. I hope I can play well and give her a good match.”