LONDON: A rematch of last year's final was set up at Wimbledon on Monday, as defending champion Elena Rybakina eased into the quarterfinals after her opponent, No. 13 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, retired in their fourth-round clash, while last year's runner-up Ons Jabeur defeated former winner Petra Kvitova to advance.
Haddad Maia, a semifinalist at Roland Garros last month, also pulled out of the doubles with a lower back injury.
Thus, Rybakina improved to a 14-1 win-loss at the All England Club and became the first female defending champion to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon since Serena Williams in 2016.
After winning Wimbledon last year, Rybakina said she felt she wasn't treated like a champion, but added that her strong results in 2023 - in which she has reached the Australian Open final and won Indian Wells - have changed that.
"I feel different from the beginning of the year, just because I had really good results. Maybe last year I didn't finish as I wished I could finish," said the third seed from Kazakhstan.
"This year, all the results, I think it's not only about Wimbledon, it's just overall how I started the year. Of course, it's different from last year."
Tunisia's No. 6 seed Jabeur claimed her second consecutive win over a former Grand Slam winner to secure a berth in the quarterfinals.
After dismissing Bianca Andreescu in the third round, Jabeur cruised past two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova 6-0, 6-3 on Monday, and is now looking to avenge her heartbreaking loss to Rybakina from 12 months ago.
"Winning also 6-0 against someone like Petra, you can expect to be beaten 6-0 the next set, so I tried to tell myself that the match is starting in the second set. Kept going. Tried to play point by point. Honestly, it was going very well for me," Jabeur said.
In other action, No. 25 seed Madison Keys came from a set and a break down to snap qualifier Mirra Andreeva's dream run at Wimbledon, advancing 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in two hours and two minutes.
Andreeva, 16, had been bidding to become the youngest Wimbledon quarterfinalist since Anna Kournikova in 1997. She came within five points of this achievement when she held a point to lead 5-1 in the second set, only for Keys to escape with a backhand winner that would turn her fortunes around.
However, No. 102-ranked Andreeva is still guaranteed to crack the Top 100 for the first time after competing in just four tour-level events.
"I think it's hard to play - it's more that she's 16, she's very free, going to play some of her best tennis. You go in knowing there's going to be moments where she's playing incredibly well. Obviously she's been playing well to get this far," said Keys of the challenge of facing Andreeva.
"It's also tough being on the other side of the net of a 16-year-old who is really playing with nothing to lose and you're the one that's supposed to beat her. That's always a difficult position to be in.
"I think she's a really great player on top of all of that. All in all, it was a tricky match."
Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam where Keys has yet to make the semifinals, and she takes on No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight on Wednesday.
Sabalenka booked her spot in the quarterfinals with a convincing 6-4, 6-0 success over Ekaterina Alexandrova, who had a 3-2 head-to-head record against the world No. 2 coming into the match.
The Australian Open champion is through to the last eight for a fourth consecutive Grand Slam and has split her two previous meetings with Keys, who won their most recent clash, on grass, in Berlin two years ago.