When the draw came out for the women's singles at Wimbledon, all eyes looked to world number one Angelique Kerber's section. The German's projected fourth round opponent was the 14th seed Garbiñe Muguruza. It was unknown whether the tennis world would see that fourth round encounter as both Grand Slam champions have been struggling in 2017.
What both players have in common is that they lost a grip on their respective Australian Open and French Open titles in the fourth round. Kerber lost to Coco Vandeweghe, who went on to defeat Muguruza in the quarterfinals and reach her first Slam semifinal. Whilst Muguruza lost her French Open crown to France's Kristina Mladenovic. Another thing that both players have in common is that they are both beaten finalists at Wimbledon. They both lost their first Wimbledon finals to Serena Williams in 2015 and 2016 respectively in straight sets.
Moreover, whilst 10th seed Venus Williams is the last remaining Wimbledon champion left in the draw, there are four players in total who have reached the final. Venus herself, Agnieszka Radwanska and the last two runner-ups, Muguruza and Kerber have all fallen short in Wimbledon finals. The quartet has lost to Serena Williams in Wimbledon finals as well. Nonetheless, at the French Open, for the first time since the 1979 Australian Open, none of the previous quarterfinals had won a Slam.
However, that is guaranteed not to happen at Wimbledon as the winner of Muguruza-Kerber will ensure that won't happen as they are both Grand Slam champions. Both players may have had underwhelming clay court campaigns but they will be pleased to be back on the lawns of Wimbledon.
Kerber's route to the fourth round
The two-time Grand Slam champion has a lot of pressure at Wimbledon as she is defending her world number one ranking along with finalist points attained at SW19 last year. Nonetheless, Kerber had the privilege of opening proceedings on Centre Court in place of Serena Williams, who is not participating due to her pregnancy. The world number one defeated the returning Irina Falconi, 6-4, 6-4. In the second round, last year's runner-up had a tricky second round encounter with 2013 semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens on No.1 Court.
Nonetheless, the German recovered from a break down to defeat the crafty Belgian, 7-5, 7-5 to make the third round at Wimbledon. However, a few of the top players have had tests at this year's Championships from recovering from a set down, and Kerber was no different. In the third round, the reigning US Open champion was heading for the exit door as she was a set and a break down in the second set to Shelby Rogers. In fact, Kerber was two points away from handing Rogers points for an insurance break, and serve for the match. Nonetheless, the two-time Grand Slam champion from Germany survived as she defeated last year's French Open quarterfinalist, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon for the fourth time in six visits to SW19.
Muguruza's route to the fourth round
The 14th seed has slid out of the top ten after failing to defend her French Open points. Nonetheless, the former world number two has been in scintillating form in London. Muguruza has not dropped a single set in her four matches. Whilst, her coach Sam Sumyk is at home with his family as his wife is set to have a child. Muguruza's compatriot and 1994 champion Conchita Martinez has stepped in, in his absence. Therefore, it is not surprising that Muguruza and Martinez are working well together as Martinez is the Spanish Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain, and she has been seen in Muguruza's box in the past.
The 2015 runner-up began her campaign against Ekaterina Alexandrova. The Russian is a talented young player, and she took Karolina Pliskova to three sets in Paris. Muguruza dispatched Alexandrova and 2009 US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer in her first two matches. The 14th seed defeated Sorana Cirstea, 6-2, 6-2 in the third round, booking her place in the fourth round for the second time in three years.
Both players were responsible for claiming three out of the four Grand Slam titles between them in 2016. Therefore, the two top players are no strangers to reaching the latter stages of Slams. Muguruza leads Kerber 4-3 in their head-to-head encounters, and she leads 2-0 in Slams.
The top seed won their first three encounters starting on the hard courts in Indian Wells in 2013 in the fourth round, recording a 6-4, 7-5 victory. The German followed this with another straight sets victory in the quarterfinals in Stanford a year later. However, Kerber needed three sets to defeat Muguruza in their quarterfinal encounter in Sydney in 2015, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Since then it has been one-way traffic for the former world number two. They have not met since 2015, and the Spaniard has won their last four meetings in succession to take the lead in their rivalry. The Spaniard defeated Kerber for the first time in the third round of the French Open in 2015, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, and they met again at the same stage at Wimbledon a month later. Once again, Muguruza needed three sets, 7-6(12), 1-6, 6-2 to dispatch the German. It was a good victory for the former French Open champion as she went on to defeat Caroline Wozniacki, Timea Bacsinszky, and Agnieszka Radwanska to reach her first Slam final.
Muguruza defeated Kerber in straight sets for the first time in their fourth meeting in 2015 in Wuhan, 6-4, 7-6(5) and the former world number two defeated Kerber, 6-4, 6-4 at the WTA Finals. Moreover, little did both of them know at the time, that they would win their first Grand Slam singles titles in 2016.
Who advances to the quarterfinals?
This will be an intriguing fourth round clash between both players. The two seeded Grand Slam champions have had their trials and tribulations in 2017, after trying to back up the previous seasons. Nonetheless, they have both found their form at Wimbledon. The world number one will have a lot more pressure in this contest as she knows that she has to reach the final to remain the world number one. If Kerber fails to reach the final, coupled with Simona Halep failing to advance to the semifinals, then Karolina Pliskova will be elected as the new world number one.
Most importantly, Kerber will be looking to add to her Grand Slam cabinet after the disappointment of losing to Serena in last year's final. The top seed's second serve is attackable, which Muguruza will be looking to punish by stepping into the court and using her backhand which has been firing on all cylinders. Moreover, this match could be on the 14th seed's racquet as she has been serving exceptionally well, her movement around the court has been good and she has been winning the big points at crucial times which she has struggled to do in the last 12 months.
Furthermore, the two-time Grand Slam champion will be full of confidence after clawing back a victory against Rogers, something which she may have struggled to have done earlier on in the year. Muguruza may lead the way in their head-to-head but Kerber will be Muguruza's toughest test and expect this contest to be a thriller. The German defends well on grass, and she will be looking to move Muguruza around the court in uncomfortable positions, and get the Spaniard frustrated.
This will be the first match scheduled on No.2 Court on Manic Monday, and the winner of this fourth round encounter will have a tricky quarterfinal clash on Tuesday. The winner will face 2012 runner-up and ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska or Kerber's fellow two-time Grand Slam champion and a three-time quarterfinalist at SW19, Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the semifinals. The draw is wide open, and all 16 players remaining in the draw will fancy their chances of lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish in six days time.
Prediction: Kerber in three sets