Greek world No. 5 Maria Sakkari and German 2018 champion Angelique Kerber - a pair of players with title hopes in the women's draw - fell victim to upsets in third-round action Friday at Wimbledon.
Sakkari was carved up by one of the savviest competitors on the WTA Tour, Germany's Tatjana Maria, a grass-court specialist whose strong serving, expert use of the slice off both forehand and backhand and skilled net play led her to a surprise 6-3, 7-5 victory on the No. 2 Court.
Maria, a 34-year-old mother of two, got a key service break in the eighth game of the first set and then served out the opener thanks to some aggressive play, including a forehand winner and an ace.
Sakkari appeared to have turned the match around when she took a 5-2 lead in the second set, but the German underdog clawed her way back with more crafty grass-court play.
Some errors by her opponent, who misfired on a forehand on break point when serving up 5-3, botched an easy volley with Maria serving for the match at 6-5 and a netted a forehand approach shot on match point, also helped the German clinch the victory.
"It's hard to find words because I came here with my two kids for the first time," Maria said. "It's such a special place here for me ... I love to play Wimbledon and to see and make this happen with my family, there are no words for this. It's only joy, only happy."
Next up for the world No. 103 will be big-hitting Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, who blasted her way to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 comeback victory over Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu on Friday.
That round-of-16 contest will feature an extreme contrast in styles between the unorthodox, slice-heavy game of Maria and the massive power and flat ground strokes of the 12th-seeded Ostapenko, who is looking to recapture the magic that led her to the 2017 French Open title.
In another milder upset on Friday, the 15th-seeded Kerber ran up an uncharacteristically high unforced-error count in a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Belgium's Elise Mertens on the No. 1 Court.
Kerber fell behind in the first set but got back on serve when she struck a forehand crosscourt winner to narrow the deficit to 4-5.
The German was unable to maintain that momentum though, playing a bad service game and dropping the opener when she netted a backhand.
In the second set, Kerber got her nose in front but faltered when serving for the set at 5-4.
The set was then entirely up for grabs with Mertens serving at 5-5, but the 24th-seeded Belgian gutted out a tough service hold when Kerber sent a forehand over the baseline on game point.
The German then let the contest slip away when she lost her serve for the fifth time in 11 service games, committing her 28th unforced error overall when she dumped a forehand in the net on match point.
"It was a very good match on my side. I had two difficult ones just before, saving two match points (in her second-round contest against Hungary's Panna Udvardy). So I'm very happy that I could close this one in two sets," Mertens said.
"I didn't expect to play like this. But I felt like today was a good win. Today was a good day, especially starting very well, coming back in that second set."
Next up for Mertens on Sunday will be the highest-ranked player in the bottom half of the draw, third-seeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur, who rolled to a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 victory Friday over 19-year-old Frenchwoman Diane Parry.
The United Kingdom's Heather Watson also generated some excitement for the home fans on Friday, defeating Slovenia's Kaja Juvan 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 to reach the round of 16 of a Grand Slam singles event for the first time in her career.
The 30-year-old Brit had come up short in three previous third-round matches at Wimbledon.
Watson will next take on 22-year-old German Jule Niemeier, who ousted second-seeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the second round and overcame Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on Friday. EFE