Close, but no cigar.
In one of the best matches of the tournament, Maria and Serena probably should have ordered to double up on ball changes, as they both came out ripping the cover off the ball.
Masha is back. She was going to need to come out fearless. Check. She was going to have to work the big forehand. Check. She was going to have to stay away from key double faults. Not so check. Make no mistake, Serena played amazingly, but Masha essentially gave the match away at key points. A double fault at 9-all in the first set tiebreak gave Serena a set point, which she took with an ace. Maria also double faulted twice in a row on her serve in the second set at 15-all, gifting two break points. Champions don’t waste those oppurtunities. That was the match.
Not that Serena didn’t play well. She saved several set points in the first set tiebreak, was destroying second serves, and moving incredibly well. Even if those double faults didn’t happen, she still likely would have found a way to win. It’s just too bad it went down the way it did.
Serena gets Nails next round, who crushed A-Rad and has been quietly having a fantastic grass season. She beat Maria in the Birmingham final, so in theory she should give Serena a test. Expect a fight.