LONDON, Great Britain - The day began with an absolute epic between Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka Radwanska, continued with two great comebacks from Serena and Venus Williams, and ended with yet another marathon, between friends and doubles partners Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova. When the dust finally settled on a fantastic showcase of tennis, the quarterfinals are now set for Tuesday.
Quarterfinal Tuesday: The women take center stage on Centre Court and No.1 Court on Tuesday.
A Truly Manic Monday: The second Monday at Wimbledon is, for many, the best day on the tennis calendar. All 16 men's and women's fourth round matches play, providing a delicious smorgasbord of tennis for any fan. But this Manic Monday was particularly memorable because not only did the women's slate of matches feature nail-biter after nail-biter, but during the early part of the day the tense action was underway simultaneously on different courts.
As Radwanska and Cibulkova were locked in their gripping final set, one that lasted 84 minutes and saw both women save match points and fend for their tournament lives, Simona Halep and Madison Keys were locked in their own coin-flip of a match, which saw Keys reel past Halep in the first set, only for the Romanian to mount her own comeback in the second set.
After Cibulkova and Halep prevailed in their three-setters, it was Serena Williams and Venus Williams who were locked in simultaneous drama. As Serena found herself down 4-5 with Kuznetsova set to serve out the first set on Centre Court, Venus was battling back from two breaks down to get back on serve against Carla Suárez Navarro on No.1 Court. A rain delay then took all four women off the court, with Serena and Kuznetsova locked at 5-5 in the first set, and Venus leading Suárez Navarro 4-2 in the first set tiebreak.
The sisters would prevail in straight sets, but not before causing a few grey hairs for their mother, Oracene Price.
One more match would go the distance, with Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova needing two hours and 48 minutes to settle their fourth round match, which saw a rollercoaster third set end 9-7 in favor of Vesnina. Vesnina served for the match at 5-4, was broken to 5-5, Makarova fended off two break points to hold to 7-6, Vesnina held in a deuce game to 7-7 and then broke Makarova at love and served out the match with an ace out wide.
And with that, everyone could finally breathe.
Dominika Cibulkova's Big Day: The 27-year-old actually didn't expect to be playing in her Wimbledon whites this week. In fact, if it were up to Cibulkova's initial plans, she'd be going through the final fittings for her wedding whites. The Bratislava native never backed her talents on grass - she had made it past the third round just once in 2011 - and so scheduled her wedding to fiance Michal Navara for July 9th, which happens to also be the day of the women's final at Wimbledon.
"We chose this because I never saw myself as such a great grass court player," Cibulkova said after her win over Radwanska. "But winning Eastbourne and now, being in a quarterfinals I would change my mind.
"If I would win tomorrow, then we will change it. Then we will postpone it because it will be a lot of rush. It's still really, really far. I want to get a good rest and I just want to play well tomorrow."
Cibulkova told reporters it had not even crossed her mind that she might need to postpone the wedding until she was sitting in the ice bath on Monday.
"I said to my team, 'Okay, now it's getting more serious,'" Cibulkova said. "So I told them, 'If I win tomorrow, then we seriously have to deal with this.' So everything, we'll see after tomorrow."
The World No.18 scored a massive win over No.3 Radwanska, winning, 6-3, 5-7, 9-7 in three hours to make her second Wimbledon quarterfinal. Cibulkova saved match point late in the third set and the two went back and forth with the match on a knife's edge before Cibulkova's offense finally broke Radwanska's defense.
It was, for many, the best women's match of the season so far.
? WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 4, 2016
"You know, today was, I would say, the most physically tough, it was the toughest match for me I would say my whole career," Cibulkova said.
"After I didn't make the first match point the momentum changed and then she was up," Cibulkova said. "Today she was playing really, really good. She tried to play much more aggressive than the matches before, and her defense was just so good, as always. Sometimes when you play against different players, it's just enough one winner, but against Aga today I felt like I have to put six, seven, eight winners to earn the point."
The two shared a nice moment after the match, a heartfelt hug after a gritty battle.
Cibulkova plays Elena Vesnina on Tuesday for a spot in her first Slam semifinal since the 2014 Australian Open, when she went on to make the final. A champion at the Aegon International, Cibulkova is riding a nine-match winning streak on grass, more than her three previous seasons combined, including two wins over Radwanska. She's also back to playing some of the best tennis of her career. Last year she won 19 matches on the season, partially due to ankle surgery that sidelined her for four months. This year she leads the tour in match wins with 33.
She may not have been much of a grass court player before, but the new and improved Domi is making things a little complicated for herself, her fiance, and her guests, which include Marion Bartoli and Barbora Strycova.
"If we would really have to postpone it, then it will be like dream come true, you know, because nothing better could happen to me, to me in my tennis career," she said. "It's no problem to postpone a wedding one week after, and it will be even more enjoyable."
Hear from Cibulkova after the win:
Venus Williams' Hollywood Movie continues: Venus Williams has played an absolutely inspired Wimbledon. At 36-years-old she's into her first Wimbledon quarterfinal since 2010 and will play No.96 Yaroslava Shvedova for a spot in her first Slam semifinal since the 2010 US Open. On Monday she defeated Carla Suárez Navarro, 7-6(3), 6-4, rallying from a break down in the first set and overcoming a rain delay that came when she led 4-2 in the tie-break.
"I've been here before," Venus said. "I'm not, like, a deer in the headlights. So, of course, I want more. That's what anybody would want in a quarterfinal."
Highlights from the match:
In many ways, Venus is proving so many people wrong. She's still in the Top 10 after all these years and has a real shot at making the final here.
"If anyone's hard on me, I'm harder than anyone out there," Venus said. "But I don't really care. How about that? I have a job to do on the court. People are paid to talk and write, do all that stuff. There are very few people that can get out here and play at this level.
"I'm the one on the court. I'm the one that deserves to be there. I get that chance to go to the next round. As long as I keep putting myself in that position, good things can happen."
Serena Williams' "roof and rally": Svetlana Kuznetsova had a look. And then she didn't. The Russian came back from a break down to serve for the first set at 5-4 but was broken quickly by Serena. Then the roof closed due to light rain. When the match resumed, the World No.1 reeled off eight straight games to win, 6-4, 6-0, and advance to the quarterfinals.
"I had a little time to think about it and just calm down, really just relax," Serena said. "Both Svetlana and I had an opportunity to talk to our coaches. I think that really helped me out a lot. I talked to Patrick. He gave me some tips on what I could do. I just was able to do that."
Pavlyuchenkova rolls past Vandeweghe: The American's 11-1 record on grass this year came to a quiet end at the hands of Pavlyuchenkova, who booked her first Wimbledon quarterfinal with a 6-3, 6-3 win.
"I'm not supposed to say this, but really I didn't like grass at all," Pavlyuchenkova said. "Now it's kind of changing a little.
"In the end it's okay, the grass. I don't mind it," she added with a smile.
"I guess the key is just I wasn't really fit enough, to play on grass. I have never had consistency in my work or off court and everything, so now I'm trying to put all those pieces like puzzles together and stay quite consistent with my work and everything outside the court, so I guess that's helping."
Pavlyuchenkova teamed up with Dieter Kindlmann after the Miami Open, with the specific aim of improving her fitness. Kindlmann previously served as a hitting partner for Maria Sharapova, and Pavlyuchenkova credits him for bringing a more professional approach to her training regimen.
"His character, he's very disciplined and determined," Pavlyuchenkova said. "That's great. That's totally basically what I need, because I think we are totally different with him. So that's great balance."
Madison Keys' body betrays her again: The running joke between the press corp and Keys over the last two years: every time we ask her whether she's injury-free and she says yes, everyone has to find a piece of wood to knock on. Maybe one of us forget the drill.
The 21-year-old was confidently rolling through Wimbledon, racking up an eight-match undefeated run on grass, which included her second grass court title at the Aegon Classic. She rallied from a break down twice to take the first set from Simona Halep in a tie-break on Monday, only to see Halep charge back in the second to force a decider. Then her body let her down. She began to cramp in her leg in the third set, her level dropped, and Halep sealed a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 win.
Highlights from the match:
"I haven't cramped for like five and a half years. So good timing today," Keys said with a sarcastic smile. "I think it's probably a combination of exhaustion, just playing a lot of matches and being kind of tired. But nerves, as well. I think that played a part in it."
A quarterfinalist here last year, Keys' loss moves her out of the Top 10 next Monday.
Hear from Keys after the match:
Yaroslava Shvedova makes a racquet: The grass season is only five weeks long, which means the players are often just struggling to get time to practice on the surface. While much of the focus for singles players is getting matches, Shvedova credits doubles for helping her get accustomed to the surface, which she admits she's not comfortable on.
Shvedova played all three weeks in the Wimbledon lead-up, losing in the first round of singles in s'Hertogenbosch, Mallorca, and Eastbourne. But a last minute call from Oksana Kalashnikova led to her playing doubles in s'Hertogenbosch, which she did not intend to play, and the pair won the title. Kalashnikova might want a cut of Shvedova's prize money check from Wimbledon. She also warmed Shvedova up before her match against Lucie Safarova on Monday, which she won in straight sets.
"Today I woke up thinking that I hope I didn't forget how to play tennis," Shvedova said, laughing. "When I warmed up I was like 'Ok, I can relax.' I was a bit nervous."
Shvedova came into Wimbledon with little form, but she's worked her way through a tough draw, beating Julia Goerges, Elina Svitolina, Sabine Lisicki, and now Safarova. Asked whether she thought she could make the second week at Wimbledon, Shvedova laughed.
"I was coming hoping to win the first round," she said. "I didn't have a very good clay season, I didn't have many singles matches and I was struggling. At the French Open I played well against Svetlana Kuznetsova, lost in three sets, felt very well on court. But it was not enough. I wanted more singles matches. I came here without thinking, not looking at the draw, just playing one by one."
Shvedova has been working with Victor Ionita, former coach to Sorana Cirstea and Simona Halep, since November. She credits their work together with her turnaround in form. But she also says a racquet change may have sparked things too.
"I had some issues with my racquet," Shvedova said. "This is the first tournament I went back to my previous racquet. I have the same racquets. It's the same model, just a new set of duplicates which I felt were different. I had problems that the ball was not going. So now for this trip I took my old racquets and I left all the new sets at home. I don't know, maybe it's the new racquets, maybe it's me, maybe it's the stars all coming together."
Opponents and Partners: Vesnina won the all-Russian duel, beating her doubles partner Makarova, 5-7, 6-1, 9-7 in two hours and 48 minutes to make her first Slam quarterfinal. The two reunited hours later to play their second round match, which was suspended for darkness.
A big question on Tuesday is how both Vesnina and Cibulkova will pull up physically after a very trying Monday.
No solace for Agnieszka Radwanska: The Radwanska-Cibulkova rivalry has morphed into one of the most compelling in the women's game - and THE rivalry of the 2016 season. Monday's fourth round encounter was their fourth of the season, with Cibulkova winning the last three in brutal three-set affairs.
But as Radwanska reminded the press after the match, it's nice that everyone enjoyed the match. But she'd rather play a terrible match and win than be on the losing end of masterpiece.