Elena Rybakina has the perfect game to succeed at the All England Club, where she has now compiled an ethereal record of 17-2.

The most recent addition to that growing, glowing resume was the No.4 seed’s 6-0, 6-1 victory Saturday over former Grand Slam champion Caroline Wozniacki. It was cold and clinical and complete -- and it was over in 57 minutes. 

Rybakina finished with 36 winners, 32 more than Wozniacki.

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In her on-court interview, Rybakina was asked what it feels like to be in such a surreal zone.

“Of course it feels amazing,” Rybakina said. “Perfect conditions for my type of game. I’m really pleased.”

Rybakina, 25, is the first woman to reach the fourth round in each of her first four Wimbledon main-draw appearances since Maria Sharapova, from 2003-06 -- and only the fifth overall, joining Stefanie Graf, Jennifer Capriati, Jelena Dokic and Sharapova. She won the tournament in her second try in 2022, defeating Ons Jabeur in a three-set final.

She stands six feet tall and has long arms, transforming her serve into a slingshot on a slippery surface. She led the Hologic WTA Tour coming into the fortnight with 267 aces, averaging more than six per match. On grass, where the ball skids and stays low, a powerful serve is a huge advantage.

“Serve is definitely my strength,” Rybakina told reporters earlier in the tournament. “If it goes, it’s amazing.”

Even if it doesn’t, she can win by going forward. Rybakina won all 10 of her net points in the first set and 12 of 14 overall. She hit “only” nine aces, but crucially won 25 of 31 first-serve points.

Martina Navratilova won a record nine titles here, smashing left-handed serves and finishing points at net. And while Rybakina is right-handed, her modus operandi is the same. In her first two matches, against Elena-Gabriela Ruse and Laura Siegemund, Rybakina came forward 51 times -- and won 31 points.

It had been five years since Wozniacki -- who turns 34 on Thursday -- made an appearance at the All England Club. She retired in 2000, tired of struggling with rheumatoid arthritis and settled into motherhood. Olivia is three and James will turn two in October.

She returned from a three-year absence last summer in Montreal and finished her abbreviated season with seven wins in 11 matches. She’s played a selective schedule this year, reaching the quarterfinals at Indian Wells (losing to Iga Swiatek) and on the grass at Bad Homburg.

Wozniacki was one of four Grand Slam champions granted a wild card at Wimbledon, along with Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu, who reached the fourth round on Friday.

Of the four Grand Slams, Wimbledon is least conducive to Wozniacki’s precise, angled game that relies on her retrieving skills, but typical of her talent she had reached the fourth round six times (2009-17). She entered this third-round match 4-2 on the grass, hoping to make a second-week maternal run reminiscent of Elina Svitolina’s surprise advancement to the semifinals a year ago.

This was only her second career meeting against a Top 10 player at Wimbledon; Wozniacki lost to Jelena Jankovic in 2008’s third round. For the record, Rybakina had just turned eight years old when Wozniacki won her first Wimbledon match over Anastasiya Yakimova in 2007.

This was the first meeting between Rybakina and Wozniacki and it spun very quickly out of control for the Dane. Rybakina won 25 of 35 points -- 16 of them recorded as winners. Those six games required only 22 minutes.

After the delay, the first stroke of the second set was a 116 miles-per-hour ace by Rybakina. With the roof closed, Rybakina’s serves became even more lethal (she had eight alone in the second set) and she went on to win her seventh straight game.

Nearly 40 minutes into the match, Wozniacki won her first game. Rybakina promptly broke her the next time out for a 3-1 lead. It happened again two games later.

Rybakina, who needed three sets to get past Laura Siegemund 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the second round, should have an easier recovery this time.

Next up on Monday: No.17 Anna Kalinskaya, a 7-6 (4), 6-2 winner over No.15 Liudmila Samsonova.

Defending the Wimbledon title isn’t easy; since the turn of this century, no one without the name of Williams has managed to do it. Venus and Serena Williams, whose games were also built for grass, did it no fewer than five times.

Rybakina failed to repeat a year ago, losing in the quarterfinals to Jabeur. After 2023 champion and No.6 seed Marketa Vondrousova lost her first-round match, Rybakina reflected on the degree of difficulty.

“Of course, you want to repeat the result,” Rybakina said. “Maybe sometimes expectations are too big. It’s like in end of the day you are fighting kind of against yourself every day. I think it’s normal to be nervous in the end.

“If you’re doing well, everyone wants to beat you.”

With the withdrawal of No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka and the defeat of No.1 Iga Swiatek, Rybakina, along with No.2 Coco Gauff, has marked herself with four potential matches remaining as the one to beat.

After all, she's the only one left who's done it before. 

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