Wimbledon: Maria Sharapova is main casualty as former winners toil
THEN there were two. When the women’s fourth round began yesterday, three former Wimbledon champions were still in there fighting. Petra Kvitova made it into the quarter-finals after a struggle, Serena Williams did the same, but Maria Sharapova’s hopes of adding a second All England crown to her French Open title were dashed by a display of far superior consistency from Sabine Lisicki.
The No 15 seed from Germany was better than her Russian opponent in almost every department of her game, and if she maintains this level of performance she will be a fair bet to go one round farther than last year and reach the final. Sharapova, whose world No 1 ranking is at risk as a result of the 6-4, 6-3 loss, offered no excuses or complaints.
“I certainly had chances,” the top seed said. “I didn’t take them. But I think a lot of the credit goes to my opponent.
“She played extremely well today and did many things better than I did. Just have to hand it to her.”
Few players are able to employ controlled aggression to better effect than Sharapova, but the 22-year-old German was certainly one yesterday. She tensed up only briefly, when serving for the match, but otherwise played with an evident delight.
“Well, I enjoy the sport,” Lisicki said later when it was suggested that few players had ever smiled so much during a match. “I just love playing tennis, so I just have fun out there. I felt great. I had a great practice yesterday evening and felt good this morning. As soon as I stepped on the court I felt very confident.”
Lisicki’s opponent in the last eight is her compatriot, the No 8 seed Angelique Kerber, who beat Kim Clijsters 6-1, 6-1. On ranking Kerber is the favourite, but on this form Lisicki need fear no one. “I don’t see any pressure for myself,” she added. “I just go out there, enjoy it, and want to play the best tennis I can and keep improving,”
Kvitova looked like she was doing anything but enjoying it for long stretches of her match against Francesca Schiavone, but she prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 after the Italian’s concentration was broken by two rain breaks. The defending champion was as uncomfortable with the underfoot conditions as her Italian rival, but took heart when she realised Schiavone was rattled.
“The grass was a little humid, so it was dangerous,” she said. “But I was ready to continue, because I knew I had a chance.”
Schiavone is one of the most formidable fighters on tour, and is nearly always ready to back herself and to play and continue whatever the conditions. But, after the first brief break, towards the end of the second set, she still looked out of sorts. At the end of the second short halt, by which time she had lost that set and was 1-0 down in the decider, the No 14 seed was even more disgruntled. She wanted to stop, pleading that the conditions were too slippy, but the umpire was having none of it, and Kvitova had wrapped up the win before Schiavone could regain her composure.
The Czech player’s reward for reaching the last eight is a match which many people are billing as the final before the final – a clash with Williams, who beat wildcard Yaroslava Shvedova 6-1, 2-6, 7-5.
The player from Kazakhstan, who in the previous round had won a ‘golden set’ – one taken in the least possible number of points – looked more like someone who would be humiliated by that margin in the first set.
Shvedova rallied in the second, but showed her lack of experience in the third when, with every other match suspended because of rain, the umpire allowed the Court No 2 contest to continue. A little like Marcos Baghdatis had against Andy Murray on Saturday night, the unseeded player appeared to accept that time was running out, and that her part was to concede defeat and get out of there.
Williams was below her best for much of the match, but the bad news for Kvitova and her other rivals is that she is convinced she is steadily improving. “I’m really fit,” she said. “I feel so fresh. This match, it was long, but it wasn’t arduous, so I feel totally fine. As the tournament goes on I tend to relax more and more and realise that this is a great opportunity for me.”
The winner of the Kvitova-Williams match will meet either second seed Victoria Azarenka or the unseeded Tamira Paszek in the last eight. Lisicki or Kerber will face No 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska or No 17 Maria Kirilenko.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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