In her first match against a Top 10 player, Jule Niemeier delivered a near-flawless performance to upset No.2 seed Anett Kontaveit 6-4, 6-0 in just 58 minutes in the second round of Wimbledon.
In each of her previous three matches against Top 20 opposition, the No.97-ranked German had taken the contest to three sets. But on her No.1 Court debut, Niemeier made no mistake in closing out a career-best first Top 10 win, racing through a second-set whitewash.
Interview: Jule Niemeier, the natural talent leading Germany's next generation
This time last year, Niemeier arrived at Wimbledon qualifying in hot form but missed two match points against Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the final round. The 22-year-old had to wait until Roland Garros last month to make her debut in a Grand Slam main draw, and followed that with the biggest title of her career so far at the Makarska WTA 125.
Against Kontaveit, who has been suffering from Covid-19 after-effects over the past two months, Niemeier was able to translate her talent into a big-stage result for the first time.
One of the wins of The Championships ✅— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 29, 2022
Jule Niemeier stuns No.2 seed Anett Kontaveit 6-4, 6-0 in only the second Grand Slam main draw appearance of her career#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/ss18aINMdr
Match management: Niemeier's success was underpinned by a stellar serving performance. She did not face a break point, and conceded only five points behind her first delivery and seven behind her second.
A slice of luck was decisive in a tightly contested first set. A dead net cord brought up the only break point of the stanza for Niemeier in the fifth game, and she converted it as Kontaveit netted a backhand.
But in the second set, Kontaveit's game disintegrated while Niemeier went from strength to strength. Consecutive double faults from the Estonian conceded her serve in the first game, and another pair put her down a 3-0 double break.
For Niemeier, coming through a four-deuce tussle to consolidate the break for 2-0 was crucial. It was the only service game of the day in which she struggled with her own game, but once she had passed that test, she accelerated towards the finishing line.
Demonstrating both easy power on the forehand and easy touch on the drop, Niemeier finished with 13 winners to Kontaveit's seven, and 13 unforced errors to the World No.3's 24.
In Niemeier's words: "I played two former Top 10 players before, and I knew that I had the level. It was pretty close. I lost twice in three sets. I knew I had the level to beat those players, and I'm really happy I could do it today.
"[The 2-0 game] was actually almost one of the most important games in the whole match, because I felt like we were both missing couple of balls, and I started thinking too much in that game. I was pretty happy I could get it, because it's important if you break someone to just hold the serve afterwards."
Tsurenko triumphs in all-Ukrainian derby
The all-Ukrainian second-round contest between Lesia Tsurenko and No.29 seed Anhelina Kalinina was a reminder to put tennis results in perspective. After their first-round wins, Kalinina revealed that her parents' apartment had been destroyed in the ongoing war, while Tsurenko said that one of the targets of the Russian invasion was 100m from her home.
"When the war started, I start to feel this tension inside of me," Tsurenko said. "I think even if I work every day with psychologist and I try to avoid these emotions, it's impossible. I think this feeling, this tension will only be released when the war will finish. There is nothing I can do about it."
No.101-ranked Tsurenko, who reached the Eastbourne quarterfinals last week, came from a break down in the third set to defeat Kalinina 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 and return to the Wimbledon third round for the first time since 2017 and second time overall. She will face Niemeier next.
Afterward, Tsurenko revealed that her fitness coach and his father had been injured in yesterday's attack on the Kremenchuk shopping centre.
"It's just horrible what is going on in Ukraine," she said. "I just feel terrible, and I feel very guilty, and I feel like there is nothing I can do. So the only thing is continue playing, and as I said, I donate 10% of my prize money."
Tsurenko, whose family also fled the Russian invasion of Georgia when she was four years old, reiterated the importance of any amount of help for Ukraine.
"If there is something that every person in this world can do, I think it's good if they do it," she said. "If they think that to donate $10 means nothing, no, it's not true. It means a lot. In the city, in the main city of my region, Mykolaiv, they don't have water for few months already. So if you think that $10 is nothing, it is 10 bottles of water for these people.
"I have been at the Polish border with Ukraine, and I saw hundreds, thousands of people. They just don't know where they go. They have all their life in two bags. They have kids, grandfather, grandmother maybe with them, and also some disabled people. And they are lost. So any support that you give to Ukrainians is amazing."
Pliskova completes first-round win, sets Boulter rematch
Last year's Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova needed just a few minutes on Wednesday to polish off a win. The former World No.1 defeated fellow Czech Tereza Martincova 7-6(1), 7-5 over two days to reach the second round.
No.6 seed Pliskova and World No.61 Martincova went toe-to-toe on Tuesday night with Pliskova squeaking out the first set from an early break down. Nothing separated the pair through 5-5 in the second set, when the match was postponed for lateness.
Returning to Court 1 on Wednesday, Pliskova broke Martincova right away before serving out the win. All told, Pliskova and Martincova had the same number of unforced errors, but Pliskova fired 29 winners, well outpacing Martincova's 12.
Pliskova will return on Thursday to face British hope Katie Boulter in the second round. Pliskova and Boulter have split their two previous meetings, with the Brit's win coming just last week on the lawns of Eastbourne.