The only all-unseeded match-up in the fourth round of the Wimbledon Championships features two red-hot players in Magdalena Rybarikova and Petra Martic, with both players putting in some impressive performances and playing well above their rankings in the first week. This is the golden opportunity for both players to reach their first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal in their respective careers having undergone some tough periods recently, enduring through injury lay-offs and make their perfect returns to tennis with runs to the second week.
Returning to tennis after a lengthy layoff due to a left wrist injury which had bothered her in the past few years with her last event being the 2016 Wimbledon where she lost to Eugenie Bouchard, Rybarikova returned to play ITF events back in February, claiming some impressive results and owning a 33-5 win-loss record this year. Currently, on an 8-match winning streak, Rybarikova has won the 100K title in Surbiton and reached the semifinals of the Aegon Open in Nottingham, losing to top seed Johanna Konta. Winning her second 100K title just a week later in Ilkley, Rybarikova is one of the best performing grass court players this year. Being ranked at the 453rd spot back in February, the Slovakian now finds herself safely ranked inside the Top 100.
Rybarikova’s opponent Petra Martic is a player who experienced a similar lay-off from the game, but she managed to have a fairytale comeback after her recuperation as she also aims to reach her first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal after being so close to doing so at the French Open, where she lost to Elina Svitolina despite having a huge lead in the final set. Interestingly, Martic’s last match in 2016 also came at the Wimbledon Championships, exiting in the first round of qualifying to Urszula Radwanska. She returned to tennis this year with a bang, showing no signs of her back injury as she rattled off eight consecutive wins in her first matches. Her most impressive result of her comeback came in Paris, where she came through the qualifying rounds and defeated two seeded opponents to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for just the second time in her career. Despite not playing any lead-up events to Wimbledon, Martic still managed to qualify for the main draw, beating the top seed Aleksandra Krunic in the process.
Path to the second week: Rybarikova
Rybarikova was given a very tough draw, but it still did not stop her from making her first ever second-week appearance in a Grand Slam. Starting off her campaign with an excellent win over the higher-ranked Monica Niculescu in straight sets, Rybarikova was only able to enter the main draw using a protected ranking. In the second round, the Slovakian faced off against the huge title favourite Karolina Pliskova in a highly-anticipated match. Unexpectedly, she was able to defy the odds and create the biggest upset of the week, coming from a set down to prevail in three sets, claiming just her second Top 3 win of her career. Rybarikova continued to play some peak tennis, stamping over Lesia Tsurenko in just under an hour, losing just two games along the way.
Path to the second week: Martic
Martic got through the opening rounds of the qualifying draw in comfortable fashion, but she had to battle in the final qualifying round as she defeated the top seed Aleksandra Krunic with a thrilling scoreline of 3-6, 7-6, 7-5. There was more to come as the Croatian survived yet another marathon match, this time in the first round of the main draw as she survived the resilient 20th seed Daria Gavrilova in three tough sets, whiskering through to the second win after prevailing 10-8 in the final set. After defeating players outside the Top 100, Martic finally managed to make her first fourth round appearance at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
Rybarikova, playing in her first ever Grand Slam fourth round match, is having the week of her career thus far. She needs to continue playing her best tennis but she is definitely subjected to receiving pressure in what could be the biggest match of her career. To triumph in this match-up of two inspiring stories, Rybarikova would have to be solid at the baseline, outhitting Martic. The Slovakian could also mix in drop shots and slices during groundstroke rallies, catching the Croatian off-guard and also to move her all around the court.
Martic has experienced the pressure of stepping up to the world’s biggest stage in the past, reaching the fourth round in Paris in both 2012 and just a month ago. The Croatian might still be suffering from the heartbreak she received against Elina Svitolina, wasting a 5-2 30-0 lead in the final set and losing 20 of the last 24 points to throw away the huge lead. Nevertheless, she bounced back the perfect way, making her second consecutive Grand Slam second-week appearance. Solid groundstrokes would definitely aid Martic, but the key for the Croatian is her consistency, and whether she could be able to maintain her composure at the nervy moments.
Match Prediction: Rybarikova d. Martic in straight sets