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LONDON -- Never is a long, long time.
That's how long it had been since Barbora Zahlavova Strycova had beaten a top-10 player. The 28-year-old Czech Republic player performed professionally for 12 years before she somehow managed to change the karma.
When Australian Open champion Li Na's forehand was called long, Strycova leaped for joy and approached the net savoring her signature victory -- or so she thought. Li challenged the call, and replay indicated the shot had striped the line. Strycova retrieved her racket and attempted to gather herself behind the baseline.
|Li Na has won only two matches in her past two Grand Slam events.|
Whether she did or not we will never know. For Li, in a shades-of-early-career-nerves, threw in a tragic double fault to give Strycova a 7-6 (5), 7-6(5) victory Friday. Li, the No. 2 seed, became the highest-seeded victim so far this fortnight.
"I told myself before the match, I mean, this is Wimbledon, Court No. 1. I shouldn't be grumpy," Strycova said later. "This is why I do this sport. This is why I play, to play these matches.
"It's really tough. You kind of won the match, but you did not. It's so far away still. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh.'"
Since winning her second Grand Slam title in Melbourne, Li has been spotty. She exited in the first round of the French Open, and now in the third here. Strycova -- who won two fewer points than Li -- is into the second week of a major for the first time.
Czech Republic women went 4-0 Friday -- the first time in the Open era the country has pushed four players into the second week of a major.
Later, Li said she wished she had played a warm-up event on grass. It's worth noting that Strycova was a finalist in Birmingham and came in with a good feel for grass.
"Where do I think I lost the match?" Li asked herself, rhetorically. "In important moment, I don't know how to hit the ball to make the point. I was always wait[ing], to see if I was wish the opponent can make mistake.
"But today didn't work."
Li can't get back to the hard courts of North America fast enough.
Djokovic soldiers on
It was not a particularly violent crash -- more of a tumble, really -- but Novak Djokovic came up holding his left shoulder like it had been hit by one of those double-decker red buses that crowd the tourist routes in this town. In the middle of the third set's sixth game, the ATP trainer came onto the court and performed various precautionary maneuvers, while Gilles Simon sat patiently on his changeover chair.
Not surprisingly, the No. 1 seed returned to action and won routinely, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. It was the 21st consecutive Slam in which Djokovic has progressed to the fourth round.
"I tried to land on my left arm," he explained later. "I basically had a strong impact on the shoulder. When I stood up I felt that click or pop, whatever you call it. I feared, you know, maybe it might be a dislocated shoulder or something like that, or joint problem.
"But luckily for me it was only an impact that had a minor effect on the joint and the muscles around, but no damage, significant, that can cause a bigger problem. I just came from the doctor's office, ultrasound. It's all looking good."
Djokovic -- who was famously described as a "drama queen" by former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade -- has now won seven straight matches against the Frenchman and meets another product of France, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in Monday's fourth round.
Tsonga, who had his first two matches suspended (darkness and rain), played for the fifth straight day and beat qualifier Jimmy Wang 6-2, 6-2, 7-5. And now the 14th-seeded Frenchman gets a well-deserved two days off.
The same is true for Djokovic's shoulder.
Last Wimbledon for Hewitt?
Two years ago after his third-round loss here, Andy Roddick offered the crowd a particularly poignant wave goodbye. Later, he admitted it was his final Wimbledon, that he had made the decision to retire after the 2012 US Open.
On Friday, Lleyton Hewitt flashed what looked to be a similarly nostalgia-tinged wave to the crowd on Court 2 after he lost a five-set match to No. 15 seed Jerzy Janowicz. Afterward, the 2002 Wimbledon champion would not say it was his last tournament here. But the 33-year-old Australian didn't deny it, either.
"Yeah," Hewitt said, clearly uncomfortable with the line of questioning. "I don't know. You never know. I'm one injury away from hanging up the bats at any time. Obviously you appreciate the support out there today."
This was one of those fun matchups we often get at the Slams, the former champion playing against a man a decade younger. Janowicz, a Wimbledon semifinalist here a year ago, won the first two sets but had to scramble to escape with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3 victory.
It was the 42nd five-set match for the scrappy Aussie, an Open era record for five-set matches. Hewitt has won the second-most five-setters in the Open era, 26, three behind Pete Sampras. Hewitt previously shared the five-set record with Andre Agassi.
Hewitt said he hadn't finalized his schedule for the rest of the year but said, barring injury, he would play the US Open. He didn't sound like a man eager to tackle the 2015 season.
Was Hewitt more emotional than usual because there's a possibility he won't be back?
"It's not something I think about, no."
No. 3 Simona Halep defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to win her second-round match that was suspended Thursday. The Romanian is into the third round here for the first time and has won eight of her past nine Grand Slam matches. ... No. 16 seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated 16-year-old Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh 6-4, 7-5. Wozniacki has lost only 11 games and won 24 of 25 service games in three matches. ... Bob and Mike Bryan dropped the first set of their title defense but rallied to beat Matthew Ebden and Samuel Groth of Australia 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-2.