LONDON, Great Britain - And on the seventh day...they played tennis. For just the fourth time in Wimbledon's history there was play on Middle Sunday. The rain held off and the third round played to completion, setting up a blockbuster Manic Monday.
Svetlana Kuznetsova rallies to beat Sloane Stephens: In a match of leads and comebacks, the Russian veteran came back from 2-5 down in the third set to beat Stephens, 6-7(1), 6-2, 8-6 in two hours and 30 minutes to make the Round of 16 at Wimbledon for the first time since 2008. She'll play Serena Williams on Monday.
"The thing is it's not about winning or losing," Kuznetsova said about her upcoming showdown. "It's about playing. It's a game. You win or lose. When you go step on the court, you don't think about the end result. You just think about point by point.
"Of course I have to play great to beat her, to play good. It always depends on me and on her. It's both of us."
Against Stephens, Kuznetsova blew a 5-2 lead in the first and then lost the tie-break, but the No.13 seed was able to fight back in the final set after a code violation for coaching seemed to unnerve her. As the set wore on, Stephens' backhand began to break down under Kuznetsova's defensive pressure. The two capped off their long day on No.1 Court with a great hug at the net before Kuznetsova saluted the crowd and Stephens.
"I saw her like having hands like that, so definitely I hug her," Kuznetsova said. "Great, great sportsmanship. I think it's great example for the next generation, you don't have to have hate for each other. It's all about peace, not war.
"We have to show it, because sometimes they mix sport with politics. It's very important that we show for next generations that, you know, it's out of that, you know. Give good example."
"I think the McHale match really helped me," Serena said. "To be honest, I felt like losing that first set so tight and her playing better than she's ever played in her life really helped me to realize that I can play better and I can lift my game to compete with people when they're, frankly, treeing."
Before Serena took to a packed house on Centre Court, CoCo Vandeweghe extended her record on grass this year to 11-1 with a business-like 6-3, 6-4 win over Roberta Vinci. Vandeweghe has not lost a set so far in the tournament.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova breaks her Slam duck: The No.21 seed played her best match ever on grass, beating No.11 seed Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 6-2 to advance to her first Wimbledon Round of 16. In fact, the Russian's win put her into the second week of a Slam for the first time since the 2011 US Open. It was a long overdue run for the talented hitter.
And when you can outdo the always crafty Bacsinszky on match point like this, it's a well-earned win:
Ekaterina Makarova backs up her big win: A quarterfinalist in 2014 and 2010 Aegon International champion, we know Makarova can play on grass. She stunned Petra Kvitova in the second round on Saturday in their rain-interrupted match, and then came out on Sunday to beat Birmingham finalist Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-2. Along with Elena Vesnina's win over American qualifier Julia Boserup earlier in the day, that puts four Russians into the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009.
Madison Keys continues to impress: The 21-year-old is into the second week at Wimbledon for the second straight year and has now made four consecutive second weeks at the majors. Those stats are great, but what has stood out in the first week has been her ability to shake off a stretch of bad play and problem solve. She needed three sets to beat Kirsten Flipkens in the second round and three again to beat Alize Cornet on Saturday. In each match she won the first set, narrowly lost the second, and played solid third sets to win.
"I mean, it would have been nice to win in straight sets," Keys said. "But it's definitely good to figure out tough situations and be able to play better in the third set, like, I think I came out and I really changed my tactics and played a lot better in the third set. So being able to come off of a bad set maybe and then have a more solid set I think makes me feel pretty good."
Problem solving and staying calm have not always been the book on Keys. The youngster has been prone to panicking in matches and her big strokes can go awry quickly. That she's been so calm in the deciders is notable. Up next, the massive challenge of beating an in-form Simona Halep.
Kuznetsova on the brink of a Top 10 return: The Russian will be back in the Top 10 for the first time since 2010 unless Madison Keys makes the quarterfinal, or Dominika Cibulkova makes the semifinal, or Pavlyuchenkova makes the final.
No.1 Ranking Update: Radwanska and Kerber are still in the running to overtake Serena at No.1 after Wimbledon but they both need to win the title to do so. Of course, it's in Serena's hands as well. If she makes the semifinal, Radwanska cannot overtake her and if she reaches the final, Kerber cannot overtake her.
American Deja Vu: Serena, Venus, Keys, and Vandeweghe also made the Round of 16 last year. The grass court stalwarts will retake the court on July 4th. Omen?
Angelique Kerber flying under the radar: The draw has broken in Kerber's favor after the first week of play. Drawn into the bottom half of the draw, she has yet to face a seeded player, beating Laura Robson, Varvara Lepchenko, and Carina Witthoeft in straight sets. On Monday she faces the woman who was one point away from dumping her out of the Australian Open, Misaki Doi.
Manic Monday is set: Here's the singles lineup as the entire Round of 16 gets underway on, in my opinion, the best day of the tennis calendar.
- Serena Williams vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. CoCo Vandeweghe
- Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Dominika Cibulkova
- Ekaterina Makarova vs. Elena Vesnina
- Simona Halep vs. Madison Keys
- Misaki Doi vs. Angelique Kerber
- Venus Williams vs. Carla Suárez Navarro
- Yaroslava Shvedova vs. Lucie Safarova
Monday Forecast: According to the Met Office, it's looking good. "A bright start. Cloud increasing from the west through the day but with warm sunny spells in any breaks. Mainly dry but for some early light rain in western parts. Maximum Temperature 22 °C."
Petra Kvitova's Wimbleweird: The rain delays and scheduling through the first week hurt no one more than the two-time Wimbledon champion. Her second round match against Ekaterina Makarova was scheduled to be played on Wednesday, finally started on Friday, was suspended due to rain, and then finished on Saturday. Kvitova lost in straight sets and could not use the word "weird" enough to describe her week at Wimbledon.
"Yes, it's very weird, I have to say definitely," Kvitova said. "I felt like I stuck in the second round for a while. I think that the tournament was really, like, weird for me this time. I couldn't really describe how. But I was waiting all day long almost every day to be scheduled on, and didn't really have a chance to finish or step on the court. So it was really weird.
"I think it's when you still like waiting and your nerves are still going, it's always a little bit difficult with energy and everything. You just have to focus all day, which then maybe when you step on the court, you don't really have the energy afterwards."
Kvitova's second round exit was her earliest at Wimbledon since 2009.
"It's weird when you're sitting in the locker room and someone finish the third round, as Carla Suarez Navarro, and I was still waiting for my second. We was just making laugh of it. What we can do, right, in the locker room?
"It is how it is. I wish I should be scheduled a little bit better, but it's the past now."
Agnieszka Radwanska's second life: In her second round match, Radwanska saved three match points to beat Ana Konjuh. One of those match points was a net cord ball that Konjuh hit that barely stayed back on her side. Radwanska admitted she thought her tournament was over.
Q. Going back to that match the other day, was there a moment where you thought that ball was going to land on your side?
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA: Yes, of course. I was kind of like stepping forward already and going to the net. So, you know, you always think that you have such a bad luck, so for sure it's going to go to your side. Well, I thought it's over.
Q. You did? You genuinely thought it was over?
AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA: (Nodding.)
The past is the past for Simona Halep: Halep has not lost a set through three matches and is moving fantastically on the grass. That's a big relief for a player who had to withdraw from Birmingham with an Achilles injury. So can she make another semifinal run here as she did in 2014? Keys will be a big test.
Q. Do you feel you're playing as well as you did when you reached the semifinal here?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, but I'm a little bit different. I think mentality, as well. Two years older so it's important. (Smiling.) I think I have a stronger game now. But, yeah, I cannot compare. That time was that time, and now I'm like I am now. And I'm more confident now, for sure.
Safety First for Angie: Here's an exchange from after her third round win:
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.