Kirsten Flipkens breaking out
LONDON -- Playing to form in this, one of the strangest Wimbledons, the women's semifinals will feature three players nobody would have expected and one many may have never heard of.
Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens, who was ranked 262nd a year ago, too low to even be a Wimbledon qualifier for the second year in a row, upset No. 8 seed and 2011 champ Petra Kvitova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 Tuesday to advance to Thursday's semifinals against feisty Marion Bartoli of France, who knocked out Sloane Stephens, the last remaining American, 6-4, 7-5.
It is the first major in three years in which the semis will not feature a former Grand Slam champion.
"It's more than a dream come true, it's ridiculous," said Flipkens, known as "Flipper" on the WTA Tour. "To not even get to qualifying and now be in the semifinals, I still can't believe it. The people who still believed in me last year I can count on one hand."
In the other women's semifinal, Germany's Sabine Lisicki -- who followed up her dramatic upset of defending champion Serena Williams on Monday with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Kaia Kanepi on Tuesday -- will face No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, a 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2 winner over No. 6 Li Na.
Radwanska, the runner-up in 2012 who is trying to win her first Grand Slam, saved four set points in the first and had two visits by the trainer for a thigh injury during a match that was twice delayed by rain.
But that just played into the scrappy theme of the day. So sick was Kvitova that she had to have her temperature taken on the court when she was down 5-2 in the second set; the former champ could barely move by the end of the match.
Flipkens could certainly relate.
In April 2012, doctors discovered blood clots in her calf which kept her off the tour for two months and nearly ended her career.
"I was so calm on court, I just felt like I had nothing to lose," said the goggles-wearing Flipkens, 27, who is in her ninth year of playing Grand Slams (17 tournaments) and had never progressed past the third round until this tournament.
After berating a BBC broadcaster Monday for making too much noise in her fourth-round match, Flipkens nevertheless focused enough Tuesday to limit herself to five unforced errors (Kvitova had 28).
"I'm not sure if it's flu," Kvitova said. "I got some virus last night. It was quite tricky for me. I was in the beginning of the sick, I think, and I had a sore throat. Today I was just fighting what I can, but unfortunately it wasn't enough.
"I felt pretty dizzy and tired and sleepy, so, I mean, for sure didn't help me. But I don't [make] excuses because of this. Kirsten played very well. She did not give me anything free. I tried, but it wasn't enough."
Meanwhile, Stephens' usually reliable serve deserted her when she needed it most versus Bartoli. Stephens won just 60 percent of her first serves, and Bartoli broke serve two more times than Stephens broke serve.
"She's a very good returner, and obviously you have to be serving well to get your teeth into it," the 20-year-old Stephens said. "My serve definitely let me down in the second set."
Bartoli was booed by the crowd when she implored the tournament referee to stop the match after it began to rain in the first set, and then took a seat until it finally was suspended with Stephens serving at deuce and down 5-4.
Bartoli took the first set after returning from the 2.5-hour rain delay, then broke Stephens five straight times, four times at love.
"It would have been nice to finish that game," Stephens said. "Coming back and serving at deuce is always going to be tough for anyone. And coming back after however the long delay is [also], but that happened and you just have to work with it."
Stephens would break to pull within 5-4 in the second set, and then she held at 5-all. But Bartoli won the final two games, breaking Stephens at love for the victory.
Stephens, the No. 17 seed, seemingly had more expectations after Williams lost in the round of 16, particularly after Williams said Stephens had "a good chance of winning."
But Stephens, who defeated Williams in the Australian Open in January and reached the fourth round of the French Open for the second year in a row, said she is largely satisfied with her run here.
"I'm obviously disappointed in the way things went today," Stephens said. "But I think I'm definitely moving forward. I'm playing well. Obviously, quarterfinals is a good result. A lot of people didn't make the quarterfinals of Wimbledon this year, so I mean I'm happy to say that I did make the quarterfinals here.
"I'm playing pretty well. I just had a rough day today. That happens sometimes. I'm just going to keep going. I'm happy with what I did this week, week and a little bit. So I'm just going to, you know, be happy with it."