Another one bites the dust as Serena Williams bows out of Wimbledon
Top seed and world number one is beaten 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki
Serena Williams during her fourth round defeat yesterday to Sabine Lisicki of Germany on day seven of the Wimbledon Championships. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
No one yesterday prepared to write the obituary of Serena Williams, least of all herself. At 31, the same age as Roger Federer, Williams’ fourth round loss to Sabine Lisicki highlighted, even in defeat, what a strangle hold she continues to have at the helm of the women’s game.
Lisicki’s tears afterwards were, ironically, of disbelief and not that she had just ushered in a tectonic shift of thrones on Centre Court.
More unbackable even than the demises of Federer, Nadal or Sharapova, when they fell last week, Williams’ exit was a thundering jar to the draw and the laws that govern the game.
But few could deny the sparky crowd favourite, Lisicki, deserved her place in the quarter-final against Kaia Kanepi.
Tears also fell on Court One, where Kanepi held her nerve while erratic 19-year-old Laura Robson’s deserted her over two sets 7-6, 7-5.
Williams unquestionably remains the rule by which other players measure themselves and after a match where the German, who reached the 2011 semi-final as a wildcard, came back from 4-2 down in the third set, the world number one will have to ask herself some stiff questions.
What she may hear back is a first serve that was confidently returned by Lisicki, 23 unforced errors, and a fearlessly free spirited offensive game from an opponent nicknamed Boom Boom, whose serve was equal to Williams’ in power but more consistent. Lisicki repeatedly jerked the match in her favour on pressure points.
Normally the domain of the world number one, who had won 34 straight matches and the Wimbledon championship five times, Lisicki’s numbers afterwards were almost all inferior, except the percentage of break points won.
Williams even won more points in the match, 99 to Lisicki’s 96, but lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in just over two hours.
In defeat the American anointed Sloane Stephens as a possible tournament winner.
Stephens, a black American, may or may not understand the significance of colour and the non-black tradition of the game as well as the historical female thread that runs from Althea Gibson to Venus and Serena. But now eyes will turn to her after she beat the unseeded Monica Puig 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
“I didn’t play the big points good enough. I didn’t do what I do best. I think I had a little hesitation, and that explains it,” said Williams.
“I definitely had my opportunities. I definitely feel like I would try at some points, then maybe I backed off. If I plan on being successful, I’m never going to do it backing off. I have to play the game I can play. For me that’s being more aggressive.”
The agreeable nature of Lisicki belied a power game that was equal to that of the American. It came especially good when Williams might have had the match won in her mind after the second set, which she cleaned out 6-1 after dropping her serve and the first set 6-2.
Williams’ weighty reply there seemed like a statement of empowerment as well as a stifling rebuke to the effrontery of Lisicki. The last two times they met, the 23rd seed took just four games. So too had Centre Court come to understand that Williams’ problems are normally liquidity and not insolvency.
Tennis rich, but shot poor, Williams went 3-1 up in the third set before her opponent dramatically turned it around.
Final service game
Lisicki fought back for 4-4, reading the number one’s serve wonderfully. Chances? Plenty. Williams missed an open court for a break back in what may prove to be a career gift to the German. It left the match hanging on a final service game. Williams defended the first match point, with Lisicki showing nerves, a double fault and a collective groan from the crowd leaking details of their partisanship. German not American.
On the second match point her ground strokes solidly moved Williams around the court before a short return popped up. Lisicki swatted it and fell to her knees. “I’m still shaking. I’m so happy,” said the winner. “It’s an amazing feeling. I was fighting for every single point and hanging in there. I gave it everything I had . . . she was better in those patches but I just hung in there.”
The attitude from the queen of confidence was unusually respectful and in these instances demeanour is a better measure than words. Williams’ seemed well adjusted to the defeat.
“It’s not a shock,” she said. “She plays really good on grass. She has a massive, massive serve. So going in there you have to know that it’s definitely not going to be an easy match playing her at Wimbledon, especially on Centre Court. It’s definitely not a shock.”