WIMBLEDON — Serena Williams only hit 10 aces in her 6-2, 6-2 fourth-round win over Evgeniya Rodina, but that number doesn’t fully explain how dominant her service game was. It was where she was aiming those serves, making Rodina jump on the baseline early, getting her out of position and off-balance before the point even started.
Seeded No. 25, Williams emerged from Monday’s matches as one of the clear contenders for the Wimbledon title. Once No. 7 Karolina Pliskova lost to No. 20 Kiki Bertens, 6-3, 7-6 (1), Monday afternoon, all of the top 10 seeds in the women’s draw were officially out. Williams, however, looks nearly true to the form that has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, just one behind Margaret Court’s 24, and not like a player that had a baby less than a year ago.
“Well, there’s a lot to improve on,” Williams said. “This is only my fourth tournament back. I would hope there’s a lot to continue to improve on. There is. I feel like I’m getting to where I want to be. For me, there’s so much farther I want to go to get back where I was, and hopefully go beyond that.”
Rodina, a qualifier, has played seven matches in a week and a half. Her left leg was wrapped in ice after the match, an injury that hasn’t yet been assessed. Which was more difficult to manage, the speed or the placement of Williams’ serve?
“It’s both,” Rodina said. “115 [miles per hour] and she puts the ball so close to the line. It’s so difficult. I’ve never played against that.”
On a surface where a strong serve is a distinct advantage, the 24th Grand Slam title is certainly a possibility. Before that, Williams will have to face Camila Giorgi. Other quarterfinal matchups are Dominika Cibulkova vs. No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 11 Angelique Kerber against No. 14 Daria Kasatkina, and Bertens vs. No. 13 Julia Gorges.
Why so many upsets? Williams had a theory.
“I don’t think this has happened to this extreme,” Williams said. “But also I’ve never been ranked where I am when this has happened before, so usually I’m one of those few seeds left that’s still fighting and still in the tournament.”
On the men’s side, two other familiar champions are easily cutting through the draw. No. 1 Roger Federer and No. 2 Rafael Nadal both won their fourth-round matches in straight sets. Federer defeated unseeded Adrian Mannarino 6-0, 7-5, 6-4, and Nadal topped unseeded Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
Neither Federer nor Nadal has dropped a set during the tournament. The way the grass courts have played in the unusually unrelenting heat at Wimbledon has affected the men’s draw as well, although five of the top 10 seeds will play in the quarterfinals, including No. 12 Novak Djokovic, No. 9 John Isner and No. 8 Kevin Anderson.
“The first two matches are the ones that are maybe most uncomfortable for a bunch of guys,” Federer said. “I think because it’s been so hot, the ground has been so hard, there’s been more bounce in it, it’s been easier to move. When it’s damp, wetter, more humid in the air, I think it’s more tricky for, let’s say, the baseliner, maybe even for a big server because it’s harder for him to move, as well. It’s definitely helped a certain style of player, maybe the big servers, maybe sort of the good baseliners. But the second week I always feel like it plays different.”
On Tuesday, the women’s quarterfinals are on tap as well as the conclusion of a suspended match between No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro and Gilles Simon. Del Potro leads two sets to one.