Wimbledon 2012: Sharapova silenced by power of Lisicki
Prior to facing Maria Sharapova yesterday, Sabine Lisicki had been asked if she would complain to the umpire that the world No 1's shrieking was putting her off, as she had done, with successful results, in the second round when facing Bojana Jovanovski.
The young German dodged the question. Come the match, she found another way to silence Sharapova, ending the former champion's tournament and reversing last year's semi-final defeat with a stunning straight-sets victory.
Sharapova continued shrieking to the end, but the cries increasingly sounded like ones of anguish.
"It's revenge, for all three times she's beaten me," said a beaming Lisicki. There are likely to be many more opportunities for vengeance -- with Sharapova aged 25 and Lisicki 22, this could become an enduring rivalry. Both hit the ball hard, but it was the German's powerful groundstrokes which were more potent in a 6-4 6-3 victory.
Having failed to take two match points, once putting a simple forehand into the net, Lisicki clinched the match with an ace. She sunk to her knees as if she had won the tournament itself. It was a victory she could not have envisaged a month ago after a very poor spell in which she lost the opening match in six tournaments, including Edgbaston when she was No 2 seed.
Lisicki retreated to Nick Bollettieri's IMG Academy where the 80-year-old coach told her: "Stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop making excuses, get out there and hit it." Which is exactly what she did on Court One yesterday.
Lisicki explained: "I didn't play well in my last few tournaments so I went to Florida, I practised, got my confidence and shots back, I had fun again. I felt much better coming in here.
"Even though I lost the first game I felt great. As soon as I got the break in the second set, I knew I was going to take it home."
That break came after a rain delay which seemed to affect Sharapova's focus. She won just three of the next 12 points, by which stage the Russian, also a Bollettieri graduate, was 3-0 down. There had been five breaks in the opening set, but Lisicki had found her serve. "She hits the ball really hard," said Sharapova.
"She likes to be the aggressive one and start the point with a really heavy shot. She came out after the rain delay really firing. There's no doubt she has a lot of potential. If she plays at this level she belongs at the top, but it is not just about one tournament."
Sharapova knows what she is talking about. Lisicki is seeded 15 while Sharapova's consistency had taken her to world No 1 after her success in the French Open, but Victoria Azarenka's 6-1 6-0 drubbing of Ana Ivanovic yesterday means Sharapova will lose top spot, either to the Belarusian or Agnieszka Radwanska.
Lisicki now plays her compatriot Angelique Kerber, seeded eight. It is the first time two Germans have been in the ladies quarter-finals since 1987, when Steffi Graf was joined by Claudia Kohde-Kilsch.
Kerber made it a sad farewell to Wimbledon for Kim Clijsters, who was demolished 6-1 6-1 in 49 minutes. Clijsters, like Sharapova, is a four-time Grand Slam champion, but in her case never a Wimbledon finalist.
That will not change as she intends to retire again, this time for good, after the US Open. Now 29 and that rarest of items on the tennis circuit, a mother, Clijsters saved two match points but was never in the contest.
She departed without fanfare, just packing up her bag as if she had finished a routine match. "I'm not sorry (about leaving Wimbledon for the last time) as I've always given my best. Some days it's good, some days it's great, some days it's not good enough."
She said she will, however, take many memories into retirement, among them playing Graf and attending the Champions Ball (after winning the doubles).
"Watching on television as a junior in Belgium I felt the magic through the TV. This was for me like Disneyland was to another child."
Kerber, who conceded only seven points on serve, will be making her Wimbledon quarter-final debut. "I maybe have to pinch myself," she said. "Pressure? I enjoy this. I have nothing to lose. I lost here in the first round last year; now I am in the quarters. So I will go out and have fun."
Forty-eight hours after a Wimbledon women's record of 23 aces got her out of trouble against Jie Zheng, Serena Williams gave another error-strewn performance in beating Yaroslava Shvedova 6-1 2-6 7-5.
"I just felt like today I was sluggish out there, just pulling myself together mentally," Williams said. "But I feel I can do a lot better, which is comforting. If this is my best, I'm in trouble."
The former champion will surely need to improve in her quarter-final against Petra Kvitova, the defending champion, on Centre Court or Court One. Yesterday Williams was banished to Court Two and there were chaotic scenes as spectators mobbed her when she left the stadium.
Putting the 30-year-old American or her sister Venus on a smaller court has been controversial. Williams said security should be taken into consideration. "I was totally mobbed," she said. "I was almost knocked over."
The Azarenka-Ivanovic match began under clouds and finished under the Centre Court roof, but whatever the setting, the second seed was far too good for the former world No 1.
Azarenka, a semi-finalist last year, now plays unseeded 21-year-old Austrian Tamira Paszek, the youngest player left in the draw and the only remaining non-seed. (© Independent News Service)