Women’s top seed Simona Halep suffered a tortuous third round exit to Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh as a wildly unpredictable Wimbledon continued producing huge shocks on Saturday.
The Romanian World No.1 never got to grips with the 32-year-old Hsieh on a baking Court One and lost the last four games as her opponent battled back from 3-5 in the decider.
Defeat for the French Open champion means only one of the top 10 seeds in the women’s singles have reached the last-16 —Czech seventh seed Karolina Pliskova.
She is the first women’s top seed to lose to an unseeded player at Wimbledon since Ana Ivanovic lost to China’s Zheng Jie 10 years ago, also just after winning the French Open.
Hsieh thoroughly deserved her win as she booked a last-16 clash with Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova. “This is the first time I have beaten the World No. 1, it is amazing,” she said.
“I had to run and fight for every point. I tried to concentrate on my game and calm down a bit, that helped a lot.
“This year I have tried to enjoy more, not just tennis but life, food, strawberries and cream, lobster.
“I am really enjoying playing tennis.”
The crowd enjoyed it too.
In a sport often dominated by baseline bashers Hsieh brought so much more to the party. Cunning drop shots, often played with two hands on the racket, delicate slices and laser-like flat groundstrokes that hugged the turf kept Halep continually off balance.
Halep did not play a bad match but simply ran out of ideas at the end of an absorbing two-hour-20-minute duel full of spellbinding rallies and shots not found in coaching manuals.
When Halep led 4-1 and 5-3 in the final set it looked as though she would live to fight another day but Hsieh broke back and repeated the trick at 5-5 when she landed a sweetly-timed backhand into the corner and Halep could only net.
Hsieh’s serve is hardly a weapon — her second serves often crawling over the net — but she battled back from 15-40 in the final game to deuce and then closed it out as a weary-looking Halep dumped consecutive forehands into the net.
It was only the third time Hsieh had beaten a player ranked in the top 10 although she tamed Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at this year’s Australian Open where she also enjoyed a memorable run to the last 16.
Two-time champion Rafael Nadal reached the last 16 for the eighth time and made sure of keeping the World No.1 ranking.
The second seed comfortably defeated Australian teenager Alex De Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
Nadal, the 11-time French Open champion and bidding for an 18th career Major, will face either Italy’s Fabio Fognini or Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It was a positive match against a player with a lot of energy,” said Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion.
“I am just happy to be in the fourth round again.” Nadal, with Spain out of the World Cup, was heading to watch England play Sweden. He had obviously captured the national mood.
“I’ll go and watch some football — England, it’s coming home or not?” he said in reference to a football song which is currently being sung, hummed and whistled on almost every street.
Juan Martin del Potro made the last 16 for the first time in five years when the Argentine fifth seed defeated France’s Benot Paire 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Other early winners on Saturday included Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck who followed her upset of defending champion Garbine Muguruza by beating Anett Kontaveit, the 28th seeded Estonian, 6-2, 6-3.
Van Uytvanck will meet fellow last-16 debutant Russian 14th seed Daria Kasatkina, who defeated Ashleigh Barty of Australia 7-5, 6-3.
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