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After a string of upsets, Wimbledon heads into quarterfinals

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Time now for Grand Slam tennis. We're headed into the final stretch of Wimbledon, where some amazing quarterfinals matches were played today. The women's side, in particular, has been full of surprises. Quarters continue tomorrow, with one American, Taylor Fritz, left on the men's side. Ava Wallace covers tennis for The Washington Post. She has been at Wimbledon these first nine days of play. Ava Wallace, welcome. I'm going to try to contain my jealousy that you were there at Wimbledon while I'm in the swamp that is Washington. Hi.

AVA WALLACE: It's a little swampy here, too.

KELLY: OK.

WALLACE: We've had rain seven of nine days.

KELLY: You're making me feel better - a little bit better. OK, to the play today - American Emma Navarro kind of crushed the No. 2 seed, Coco Gauff. To get there, she did not look as strong today. What happened?

WALLACE: Yeah, she ran into Jasmine Paolini, who was the surprise French Open finalist last month who fell to Iga Swiatek but has kind of continued her hot streak here. She was playing really, really well, and she'll be the first Italian woman to make a Wimbledon semifinal.

And she was just absolutely killing her return game. Emma Navarro had no time to think when Jasmine Paolini was serving. And that's exactly how Emma kind of got into the match against Coco Gauff. She was really tight to the baseline and kind of was just aggressive on her returns, and Jasmine didn't give her the chance to do that today.

KELLY: Huh. OK, and stay with Paolini for a second because - comparing this to the performance you were just talking about at the French Open last month, is that because she's better on grass? Did she step up her game? Like, what's going on with her?

WALLACE: I think there's a lot of experience kind of coming into play here. That final that she made against Iga Swiatek, who was going for her fourth French Open title - she was really just happy to be here. That's kind of what she said when she had the mic after she lost that final. She said this run was a dream. I'm just so happy to be able to play in front of you.

And now it feels like things have kind of turned for her a little bit. She realizes that she belongs in kind of the later stages of these Grand Slams. She's 28 years old. She's shorter than most other tennis players, so she has to work really hard on the court. But her confidence is really, really high, and she just looks really relaxed out there. She's barely given an opponent an inch in her matches.

KELLY: So it's interesting. I mean, to be clear, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds on the women's side are out. Who's your favorite now to win?

WALLACE: And the 3rd seed, Aryna Sabalenka, actually pulled out before her first-round match.

KELLY: OK.

WALLACE: The No. 4 seed still lives on. That's Elena Rybakina. She plays for Kazakhstan and actually won this title in 2022. She's an excellent grass-court player. She's kind of what in women's tennis is termed the big four - that's Coco Gauff, Sabalenka, Swiatek and Elena Rybakina makes the fourth - where they're always kind of hanging around in quarterfinals and semifinals and playing each other. So she's got that experience, too. And she's, of course, won here before, so she has great memories and is feeling pretty comfortable.

KELLY: All right, let me switch you over to the men's side in the minute we have left. Carlos Alcaraz - he won the French Open this year. He's looking good. Is he the favorite to win?

WALLACE: He would be the favorite to win, especially since he won the French Open last month, too, and is playing really well. He's going for his second Wimbledon championship. But a guy named Novak Djokovic still lurks...

KELLY: (Laughter).

WALLACE: ...In the draw. He had...

KELLY: Yep.

WALLACE: ...Knee surgery three weeks ago and is somehow playing as if nothing ever happened. So...

KELLY: Really? Three weeks on?

WALLACE: ...I wouldn't be surprised - (laughter) three weeks. And truly, when I tell you, the guy is sliding around and jumping and running like it was nothing - it's pretty incredible, and I wouldn't be surprised if they meet in the final.

KELLY: Excellent. All right, we are teed up to watch with gusto. Ava Wallace reporting on Wimbledon, and from Wimbledon, for The Washington Post - thank you.

WALLACE: Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF A.V. HAMILTON AND HIJNX SONG, "DOWN!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Gurjit Kaur
Gurjit Kaur is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. A pop culture nerd, her work primarily focuses on television, film and music.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.