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Williams vs Riske tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Serena faces grass-court specialist in Wimbledon quarterfinals

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 8 Jul 2019
  • Serena Williams faces Alison Riske in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon 2019
  • Williams vs Riske is live from Wimbledon on Tuesday at 1pm BST
Serena Williams (PA Sports)

Serena Williams could once more be closing in on a twenty-fourth major title as she takes on Alison Riske in a bid to reach her twelfth Wimbledon semifinal.

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Serena Williams looks to have hit her stride in the second week of Wimbledon 2019 – but so did top seed Ashleigh Barty before Alison Riske shocked her in the fourth round. Could the grass-court specialist do the same thing to Williams in the quarterfinals?

Given that we weren’t even 100% sure she would play Wimbledon after struggling for much of 2019 with a knee injury, retiring or pulling out of three of the five events she played this year, seeing Williams into the quarterfinals having dropped just one set is a very exciting result – and exciting, too, are the signs that she’s starting to play some of her best tennis.

Williams in action against Carla Suarez Navarro (PA Sports)
After a bit of an edgy start against Giulia Gatto-Monticone and dropping the first set to Kaja Juvan in the second round, Williams noticeably and significantly lifted her game to face Julia Goerges in what was third-round rematch of last year’s semifinal. The respect Williams has for Goerges was evident in how well she played, because she didn’t perform quite so well in a more straightforward match against Carla Suarez Navarro in the round of 16 – although still more than well enough to win in straight sets, although as Williams herself pointed out,  6-2, 6-2 scoreline makes the match seem less competitive than it was, with many games going to deuce. 

‘I definitely feel like I'm getting better and better day by day. But, you know, every match is still super hard. Like even today I won a lot of points. It wasn't like your average 6-2, 6-2 score,’ Williams said.

‘I think everyone is also getting better. As the tournament goes on, that's when the better players are surviving.’

The fact that Williams has never lost a set to Suarez Navarro in six previous meetings before today does make it hard to judge just how well or not she is playing. But Williams herself is talking positively about the way she is feeling on the court, which is a very good sign.

‘The rust is definitely wearing off,’ Williams said. ‘Most of all I feel confident that I can actually move and I don't have to go for winners so soon because I'm in pain.

‘It's like, “Oh, now I can just play my game, hit shots, not have to worry about anything else.” It's good when your mind is clear and you can just play.’

Understanding how bad the pain was for Williams does make sense of her French Open performances, where she was plainly ramping up the aggression in an attempt to not have to run too much – a tactic which, even with Williams’s formidable weapons, had a short shelf life.

Williams has spent just over five hours and ten minutes on court to reach the quarterfinals, according to Wimbledon, which in one way is good – efficient wins, less wear and tear on the body, plenty of energy left in reserve. But with Williams’s lack of match practice, it might also be a detraction; she can’t exactly call herself battle-hardened as she heads into the quarterfinals.

The same cannot be said of Alison Riske, who has spent nine hours and five minutes on court in singles alone to make her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the age of 29.

Alison Riske (PA Sports)
It’s a quarterfinal that few would have predicted and Riske has had to beat a very high-quality line-up of players to get here, including Donna Vekic in the first round, Belinda Bencic in the third and finally world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the fourth. But the world no. 55 has already played her best tennis on grass and is, perhaps, the closest thing to a grass-court specialist tennis has. Her initial breakthrough came on the surface in 2010 when she made the semifinals of Birmingham as a qualifier, she has reached the third round of Wimbledon three times before (and beaten some quality opposition here including the likes of Sloane Stephens and Camila Giorgi), and while she did little on hard courts and clay earlier in the year after reaching the final of the Shenzhen Open, she had superb preparation for Wimbledon, first winning the ITF $100k Surbiton event, then claiming the WTA Tour International-level title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, saving five championship points to beat Kiki Bertens in the final.

And yet with all that I’m not sure she’s played a better match on grass this year than she did to beat Barty 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Barty did have issues – after the first service game of the match, in which she served four aces, she struggled with her serve throughout the match, her first-serve percentage dropping and dropping, and she later withdrew from the women’s doubles with a shoulder injury – but this was one of those matches were one player’s struggles were impossible to separate from how well another player was performing; Barty’s problems on serve were definitely exacerbated by absolutely superb returning from Riske, who pummeled Barty’s second serve and more often than not, her first, with pin-point returns right on to the Australian’s shoelaces.

Overall Riske’s flat ball-striking, always an asset on this surface, was tremendous off both wings, she served well herself and produced some brilliance at the net, an all-round gem of a performance to make her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Will she be able to reproduce it against Serena Williams on Tuesday, and if she does, would it be enough to win? I’m not sure on either count. Riske has played tremendous tennis recently and is fully in the winning groove, but she’s also got to be tired after playing so much tennis recently, and Centre Court is an intimidating place. She played with almost no margin for error against Barty, and that rarely works two days in a row. Barty was, also, serving poorly; I can’t imagine Riske will have anywhere near so many opportunities to attack Williams’s serve, and Williams is such a tremendous returner, Riske will find herself on the back foot time and again. Above all, as a rule the way to beat Williams is to make her hit a lot of balls, and that’s not really Riske’s game. Williams can hit with more pace than Riske but also with much more margin; she won’t be giving up any sliced balls for her compatriot to press in on. I think this is going to be an entertaining match to watch and I think Riske will make Williams work hard for a straight-sets win, but I do think it is going to be a straight-sets win for the seven-time champion.

Williams vs Riske tennis is live from Wimbledon on Tuesday at 1pm BST 

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Williams vs Riske tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Serena faces grass-court specialist in Wimbledon quarterfinals

Serena Williams vs Alison Riske live streaming, preview and predictions for the Wimbledon women’s quarterfinal match on Tuesday 9 July: Riske knocked out Barty but is unlikely to be able to punish Williams’s serve the same way

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