“I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on. I try to find out something I can improve on from each match so I can do it better in the next round.” Serena Williams
LONDON — As the sun set on the opening week of Wimbledon, just about the only seeding that truly signified something was No. 1.
That’s the number beside the names of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who turned in nearly perfect performances Saturday on Centre Court to cap nearly perfect runs to the fourth round at the All England Club ... while chaos reigned around them.
In the final match of the fortnight’s first half, played with the roof closed and lights glowing, defending champion Williams used eight aces and 11 return winners to power past 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.
“She didn’t lose energy, and her game, I think, is getting better day after day,” said French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams in the past year, when she is 77-3. “Now the matches are going to get tougher and tougher.”
Saturday’s match might not have been a fair fight, considering Date-Krumm is ranked 84th and was the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon in the 45-year Open era. Never better than a semifinalist at a Grand Slam, she played Williams evenly for about three games before the 16-time major champion took over.
“She has so much power, speed,” Date-Krumm said. “She has everything.”
Williams’ easy win followed the 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 28th-seeded Jeremy Chardy turned in by 2011 champion Djokovic, who compiled a remarkable ratio of 38 winners to three unforced errors. The Serb’s initial miscue of his own doing did not come until the third set’s sixth game, when he double-faulted while ahead 4-1, 40-love.
“Everything went my way,” he said. “I did everything I wanted to do.”
Both he and Williams could say that about the way they handled matters throughout Week 1.
Williams has won all six sets she has played, allowing her opponents a total of 11 games. Djokovic has won all nine of his sets, dropping 29 games.
“You don’t want to play your best tennis in the first round and continue to go down. I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on,” said Williams, whose 34-match winning streak is the longest for a woman since older sister Venus had a run of 35 in 2000. “I try to find out something I can improve on from each match so I can do it better in the next round.”
In other words: Look out, Sabine Lisicki, the 23rd-seeded who will meet Williams on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.
Up next for Djokovic after Sunday’s traditional day of rest is 13th-seeded Tommy Haas, the 35-year-old who is enjoying a career renaissance. He eliminated Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.
How certain was Lisicki that she would be dealing with Williams and not Date-Krumm? She tweeted a photo of her with Haas early in the second set of Williams’ match, writing: “Last Germans standing” and “We both play the no1’s next.”
A high seeding has mattered little — with the notable exception of No. 2 Andy Murray, Djokovic’s potential foe in the final.
The men’s Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are all gone, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with their 29 combined Grand Slam titles. The women’s Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 are out, including four-time major champion Maria Sharapova and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.
Even during a pair of victories Saturday, both No. 4 seeds, David Ferrer and Agnieszka Rawdwanska, looked shaky. Ferrer, the French Open runner-up this month, was treated for blisters on his right foot while coming back to beat No. 26 Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-7 (6), 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Radwanska, who lost to Williams in last year’s final, was pushed to three sets by 18-year-old American Madison Keys before winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
The highest-seeded man other than Murray on his half of the field is No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny, who will play the 2012 U.S. Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up after defeating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.
Like with the men, there are some fresh faces among the women. That includes 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since 1998; 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico; and 20-year-old Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who’ll face Puig on Monday.
That matchup prompted this question from a reporter for Stephens: Is there pressure for you when you’re playing someone in the next round who you’re older than?
“Like a year, OK,” Stephens said. “No, not really.”