LONDON: If Angelique Kerber hopes to become the first German to win the Wimbledon title since Steffi Graf in 1996, she will have to draw up an emergency game plan as she cannot afford to keep flirting with danger as she did against American outsider Shelby Rogers.
Kerber, who was runner-up to Serena Williams last year, has struggled for form in recent months and lived dangerously for more than two hours yesterday before eventually securing a fourth-round place with a 4-6, 7-6 (6-2), 6-4 victory.
That Kerber eventually landed safely in the fourth round was more down to Rogers’s lack of grasscourt experience than the German suddenly finding her range.
Rogers belted down 48 winners compared with just 25 from Kerber but she was eventually undone by her unforced errors – the final tally totalling 47.
She will face 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza tomorrow for a place in the quarter-finals.
Agnieszka Radwanska, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Coco Vandeweghe, Magdalena Rybarikova and qualifier Petra Martic also won their third round ties.
Muguruza stepped up her bid to return to the Wimbledon final with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.
The world number 15 became the first Spanish woman to reach the All England Club title match in 19 years when she was beaten by Serena Williams in the 2015 final.
An off-sorts Cirstea had witnessed the horrific knee injury suffered by her opponent Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the previous round on Thursday.
Mattek-Sands broke down in tears as she relived the sickening injury which has left her facing surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap.
The deft Radwanska, who lost the 2012 final to Serena Williams, came back from a set down to beat Swiss 19th seed Timea Bacsinszky 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Centre Court.
Radwanska next faces Russian eighth seed Kuznetsova, the 2004 US and 2009 French Open champion, who cruised through with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog.
Vandeweghe, considered by some as a dark horse for the title, beat compatriot Alison Riske 6-2, 6-4. She next faces Caroline Wozniacki or Anett Kontaveit.
Croatia’s Martic is the last qualifier still going at Wimbledon after beating Kazakhstani wild card Zarina Diyas 7-6 (8/6), 6-1. The world number 135 is the lowest-ranked woman left in the tournament.
She next faces Rybarikova, who eased into the last 16 of a major for the first time with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki came within two points of defeat against unseeded Estonian Anett Kontaveit before recovering to win 3-6 7-6(3) 6-2 and reach the fourth round.
“She was hitting the balls very hard. I was just trying to find my rhythm,” said twice grand slam champion Kerber.
“The key was that I was fighting, and I was never giving up... doesn’t matter what the score was. Without this (fight) I don’t know if I would be in the next round right now.”
Kerber was first thrown off course just three games into the match when a backhand error handed Rogers a break.
The 24-year-old held on to the advantage to pocket the set and repeated the same feat in the third game of the second set.
World number 70 Rogers appeared to have one foot in the next round as she streaked to a 4-2 lead but when Kerber produced a net charging half-volley winner in the eighth game, she was sparked into life.
A forehand error from Rogers handed Kerber the break for 4-4 and from then on the duo were engaged in a battle of wills as they dragged each other into heart-pumping rallies that often stretched to over 15 shots.
Once Kerber won the longest rally of the match, a 21-shot belter from the baseline, she strode 6-2 ahead in the tiebreak.
But as she stood one point away from levelling the match, she stopped dead in the middle of her service motion as a bee buzzed around her head.
Yet the hovering pest was the least of her worries as Kerber desperately tried to overcome a pesky opponent whose stinging groundstrokes were proving to be a continual nuisance.
A backhand winner at the end of a 13-shot rally earned her the second set but the players barely had time to catch their breaths as they were soon engaged in a 10-minute game that stretched to six deuces before Kerber finally converted a fifth break point to go 1-0 up in the decider.
The world number 1 sealed victory when Rogers clubbed a service return long.