WIMBLEDON — Top-seeded Simona Halep had her chances.
She was up a break in the third set, but was still being flummoxed by the unorthodox puzzle that Sui-Wei Hsieh of Taipei presented. Although her baseline game wasn’t as powerful, Hsieh was able to disguise her drop shot early and often. When it seemed Halep was back in control, Hsieh would again change the pace and make Halep miss.
So when Hsieh’s first match point arrived on the heat-soaked Court No. 1, the Wimbledon crowd was behind her. When her first serve was a fault, she smiled and the fans cheered. Hsieh paused and gestured for them to continue. That second serve brought a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 third-round victory and further upended a women’s draw in which many seeded players have made an early exit.
“The crowd,” Hsieh began, and recalled an earlier match where a crucial fault led to a loss. This time the crowd’s approval buoyed her confidence. “Okay, now I feel more relaxed. It helps a lot. Thank you.”
Halep said afterwards that she was tired, and frustrated by her own performance on the court. Not just with the way she played, but with her own attitude. It was a remarkably candid assessment from a top player.
“I was fighting till the end for every ball. I just was too negative to myself, talking too much,” Halep said. “I think because I was tired I couldn’t stay focused for every ball. I was leading the match, I was up, and I couldn’t finish it. I’m not hard. I’m just realistic and honest with myself. I accept that it was an unprofessional attitude from me today.”
Halep’s loss means that just one of the top ten seeds remains in the draw, No. 7 Karolina Pliskova who won on Friday. On Saturday, No. 11 Angelique Kerber topped No. 18 Naomi Osaka 6-2, 6-4, and No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko defeated Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0, 6-4. Ostapenko, who won the 2017 French Open title, hasn’t dropped a set so far in the tournament. Unseeded Dominika Cibulkova also continued to dominate, taking out No. 15 Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-2.
No. 12 Novak Djokovic faced a tense moment against British No. 21 seed Kyle Edmund in the men’s draw. Edmunds saved a break point while replays showed the ball bounced twice before it was hit, that his racket hit the net and that the ball he illegally hit was out. Djokovic argued the point vigorously, wasn’t granted a review, and yet was able to return to the court and focus, winning the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Afterwards, Djokovic said the pro-local crowd was more hostile than those he experienced while playing Andy Murray here, and that was particularly notable when he was called for a time violation.
“There is a certain, so to say, unwritten borderline where you just feel it’s a bit too much,” Djokovic said. “I know that, okay, I was bouncing the ball, I got my time violation. No doubt about it, I deserved it. But I didn’t deserve to be treated as I was treated by certain individuals.”
Edmunds, not surprisingly, enjoyed the atmosphere.
No. 2 Rafael Nadal continued to parry through the draw with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Alex De Minaur. No. 4 Alexander Zverev lost to qualifier Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (2), 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0.
Kei Nishikori knew he was racing against the darkness in his 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over No. 15 Nick Kyrgios. After the start of his match on Court No. 1 was pushed back by Halep’s three-setter and Gulbis-Zverev marathon, Nishikori pulled off the impossible in one hour and 37 minutes.
After the match, No. 24 Nishikori, a runner up at the 2014 U.S. Open, was asked if that was his best match on grass.
“I’m sure that was the best game . . . in my life maybe,” Nishikori said.