Monday, July 2, 2012
Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters out
ESPN.com news services
WIMBLEDON, England -- A month after completing a career Grand Slam and securing the No. 1 ranking, Maria Sharapova failed to get past the fourth round of Wimbledon and lost her grip on the top spot.
The top-seeded Sharapova was outplayed 6-4, 6-3 on Monday by hard-hitting Sabine Lisicki of Germany in windy, rainy conditions on Court 1, ensuring there will be a first-time Grand Slam finalist from the top half of the women's draw.
It's the fifth time in the past six years that the No. 1 seed failed to reach the final on the women's side at the All England Club.
"She did many things much better than I did today," said Sharapova, who won her first major title here in 2004 at age 17. "Of course, I could have done things differently, but not on this particular day."
The 15th-ranked Lisicki recorded her first career victory over Sharapova in four matches, avenging a loss in the semifinals to the Russian here last year.
Lisicki used flat, powerful groundstrokes that neutralized Sharapova, who was trying to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2002 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.
"That's my game, to serve well and be aggressive. That's what I did. I think it worked well," Lisicki said. "As soon as I got the break in the second set, I knew, 'I'm going to take it home.' "
Also advancing were four-time winner Williams, defending champion Petra Kvitova and second-seeded Victoria Azarenka. Four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters lost in what she says is her final Wimbledon before retirement later this year.
Sharapova is the biggest name knocked out of the tournament since two-time men's champion Rafael Nadal was upset last week by Lukas Rosol.
"Nothing is easy. Certainly not a Wimbledon title," Sharapova said. "So I don't know if it's easier or tougher now than it was years ago, but I don't think it's ever easier."
Sharapova had been ranked No. 1 for 21 weeks, including this week, but has never won a tournament while ranked No. 1. However, with the loss, she will lose that ranking next week, with either current No. 2 Azarenka or No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska replacing her, depending on their results the rest of the tournament.
"Obviously what I achieved a few weeks ago doesn't just go away in a few minutes," Sharapova said. "I'll have that for the rest of my career."
After smacking a second-serve 108 mph ace down the middle on her third match point, Lisicki collapsed to her knees on the grass and shook both fists. Among those cheering for Lisicki in the guest box was German NBA star Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.
"It's just unbelievable," Lisicki said. "For the third time I've beaten the French Open champion here."
Lisicki will next face another German, No. 8 Angelique Kerber, who drubbed Clijsters 6-1, 6-1. Kerber is 4-0 against Lisicki.
The 47th-ranked Clijsters has said she is retiring after the U.S. Open -- this time for good, having returned to the sport in 2009 after a two-year break. The Belgian, who has been dogged by injuries this year, walked off Court 3 with a brief wave.
"I didn't really think about that," she said. "I just had the feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could have done today to have won that match."
Azarenka, the Australian Open champion, routed 14th-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-0. The match was briefly held up at 4-0 in the second set when Azarenka helped the ball boys pick up pigeon feathers that floated down onto the court from the roof. The Belarusian has dropped only 14 games in her four matches.
Radwanska beat Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 and will next play No. 17 Maria Kirilenko, who defeated Peng Shuai 6-1, 6-7 (6), 6-3.
Azarenka, Williams and Kvitova are the only women's players left who have reached a Grand Slam final -- and they're all in the bottom half of the draw. Sharapova's defeat left four players in the top half who have yet to play for a major championship: Lisicki, Kerber, Radwanska and Kirilenko.
The first player to reach the quarters was 37th-ranked Austrian Tamira Paszek, who beat Italy's Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-2 to reach the final eight for the second year in a row.
Lisicki missed seven months in 2010 because of a left ankle injury -- she's described what she went through as having "to learn how to walk again" -- and dropped out of the top 200. After twisting that ankle in April, Lisicki withdrew from two tournaments and then lost her opening matches at four consecutive events, including the French Open.
But she clearly has taken a liking to the All England Club, having reached the semifinals last year, when she lost to Sharapova.
Despite their history, Sharapova referred to Lisicki as "the girl I played today," rather than by name. Sort of the way Williams' father talked about Yaroslava Shvedova, who gave the 13-time major champion all she could handle over the last two sets before losing 6-1, 2-6, 7-5.
"Whatever her name is, her feet were moving very well," Richard Williams said. "Serena's feet weren't moving."
"Looked like Serena's just not playing. She's not moving forward. Standing still. Getting caught on her back heels too much," he said. "Looked like if the girl took the ball early, she won the point."
In the third round, Shvedova won every single point -- 24 of 24 -- in the first set against French Open runner-up Sara Errani, the first "golden set" by a woman in the 44-year Open era.
When Williams began Monday's match by sailing her first groundstroke, a backhand, long to trail love-15, did that perfect set by Shvedova cross her mind?
"I was worried about it," Williams joked. "I just said, 'Serena, just get a point in this set and try to figure it out.' I definitely thought about it."
Quickly, the question became not whether Williams would win a point -- OK, everyone knew that answer beforehand -- but whether Shvedova would win a game. Call it a "Serena Set": She won 16 of 19 points in one stretch and went ahead 5-0.
But from 2-all in the second, Shvedova began hitting backhand winners at will, serving better and returning well, too, reeling off five games in a row. After the second set ended on a forehand into the net by Williams, she earned a warning from the chair umpire for racket abuse.
Williams already was pushed to a 9-7 third set in the third round, then trailed Shvedova 5-4 in the third. But with her father yelling encouragement from the stands, Williams took the final three games.
They played through drizzles that left Shvedova's prescription glasses tough to see through, so she removed them. And at 5-5, she double-faulted twice in a row to set up break point, then missed a backhand wide. But Shvedova insisted her mistakes had nothing to do with her vision.
"It's just I was a bit nervous," she said.
Plus, of course, that was Williams out there.
"In the right moments," Shvedova explained, "she did the right things."
That included a running, stretching cross-court backhand lob that Shvedova let drop behind her for a winner.
"I was surprised it went in. Maybe it was wind or something," Shvedova said. "Very weird."
Richard Williams' take?
"Actually," he said, "it was luck, to be honest with you."
His daughter acknowledged she "had no intention of hitting that shot. ... I thought I was going for a backhand down the line, and somehow it ended up being a cross court lob. That was not in the plans whatsoever."
She'll play Kvitova in a quarterfinal between the only past Wimbledon champions left in the women's draw, now that Sharapova is gone. Williams is 2-0 against Kvitova, both straight-set victories in 2010, at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
"She's obviously a great grass-court player, as well as I am," Williams said. "I'll be ready."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.