LONDON — Change is afoot on the first Thursday of Wimbledon. For the first time in the tournament’s history, a British general election is taking place during its fortnight, with a new government potentially imminent — though both players and fans are doing a steadfast job of ignoring it. More relevant to their interests is the new weather that Day 4 has brought — glorious sunshine with a pleasant breeze to replace the drizzle that has beset the previous few days.

Wimbledon 2024: Scores | Draws | Order of play

Four second-round matches from the bottom half of the draw have been postponed, and in addition to the top-half slate, that meant a plethora of terrific contests all up first. It’s a day to be outdoors for tennis in the flesh, so I set myself the task of catching some of every outside-court match.

Yulia Putintseva d. [27] Katerina Siniakova 6-0, 4-6, 6-2

“Love a slice,” says a fan next to me after one of many rallies in which Putintseva and Siniakova send the ball barely skimming the top of the net, loaded with knifing spin. But Putintseva has much more in her arsenal. Live on Court 15, it’s apparent just how much the Kazakhstani constantly changes up the play, rarely hitting two balls with quite the same spin, pace or depth. In the first set, Siniakova is thoroughly outfoxed, and ends up hitting herself out of it with multiple double faults in the final game.

The Czech finds her game in the second set, but following her first grass-court title two weeks ago in Birmingham, Putintseva’s confidence is unshakeable. She collects her seventh straight win and will next face either No.1 seed Iga Swiatek or Petra Martic.

[14] Daria Kasatkina d. [WC] Yuriko Lily Miyazaki 6-0, 6-0

Kasatkina can’t remember the last time she won a match 6-0, 6-0 — it was in the first round of an ITF W25 in Minsk in 2015, against Aminat Kushkhova — and after doling out that scoreline to British wild card Miyazaki, described the feeling as “awkward.” The Court 18 crowd attempt to lift their player when she has a handful of opportunities to get on the board in the second set, but to no avail.

Another first-time grass champion this month, Kasatkina had very little time following her Eastbourne title last week to travel and adjust to Wimbledon. But it hasn’t been a problem — she’s dropped just three games in two matches so far. That wasn’t the case the last time she won a tournament the week before a major.

“Eastbourne is a great option because you finish the tournament, you jump in the car, two hours you’re in London,” Kasatkina explained. “I have another example. I played [and won] Granby before the US Open [in 2022]. I had to sleep in Canada, then get a 5 a.m. flight. And I was playing on Monday, so that was a disaster experience. My performance at the US Open that year was very bad.”

[18] Marta Kostyuk d. Daria Saville 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4

“Martha, Martha, Martha…”

Watching Marta Kostyuk is not a calming experience. The drive volleys she takes out of the air from behind the service line are heart-in-mouth risks, and it’s thrilling when she pulls them off. When she doesn’t, a point she had seemed in control of can be thrown away in one swing. Deep in the third set, the Ukrainian fan next to me on Court 14 is going through it.

“Yakiy postril!”

A point later, Kostyuk has escaped break point with a service winner, and despair has turned to joy: “What a shot!” exclaims the fan in Ukrainian. Ultimately, Kostyuk emerges the winner after trailing 5-2 in the second set and saving a match point as Saville served at 6-5. Naturally, Kostyuk makes her supporters’ stress levels spike again in the decider, as a 4-1 lead nearly slips from her grasp and four match points come and go before she seals the win.

Jessica Bouzas Nice d. Cristina Bucsa 7-6(1), 6-3

“Ooh, I love a tiebreak,” says the fan behind me in anticipation as Bouzas Maneiro serves at 5-6 in the first set. “I love playing them.”

Her companion demurs. “Too stressful,” she replies.

Bouzas Maneiro is on the first woman’s side. Two days after stunning defending champion Marketa Vondrousova on Centre Court, she’s out on Court 4 battling a compatriot — a situation she said after her Round 1 win that she doesn’t enjoy as much. But she plays a near-flawless tiebreak as Bucsa over-presses, and rolls into the third round of a Slam for the first time from there.

[31] Barbora Krejcikova d. [Q] Katie Volynets 7-6(6), 7-6(5)

Talking of tiebreaks, Krejcikova needed two of them in front of a packed Court 8 to quell the indomitable American qualifier Volynets, having trailed by a break in both sets. The pair’s body language during the first-set tiebreak was a study in contrasts: Volynets, bouncing on her toes, was a vision of peppy positivity, while Krejcikova bent double and threw her hands apart as her first two set points came and went.

But it was her “POJD!” that echoed the loudest as she finally sealed it, going on to repeat the trick in the second set to notch a much-needed confidence boost after an injury-marred season.

[SR] Paula Badosa d. Brenda Fruhvirtova 6-4, 6-2

After a tightly contested first set, Badosa is so efficient in the second set  against the 17-year-old Fruhvirtova that she nearly foils my challenge. Hustling across the SW19 grounds from Court 8 to Court 17, I barely arrive in time for match point — and the throngs of fans around the court are such that there’s no hope of seeing it.

The Spaniard, also on the comeback trail from injury, has now reached the third round at each major this year — but it’s her continued health she’s most pleased about.

“Winning matches, getting myself into these rounds and feeling my body OK, of course it gives me faith of continuing,” she said afterwards. “Of course, I’m very motivated. The last tournaments I think I’ve been feeling myself pretty good, so I think the level is raising slowly, so I’m happy with that.”

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