Sharapova stunned by big-hitting Lisicki
TENNIS:A CAPRICIOUS wind blew through the All England club threatening to scatter seeds. Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams managed to remain resilient despite an on-court buffeting but Maria Sharapova failed to find a safe haven when confronted by the coruscating power of Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.
The recently-crowned French Open champion and world number one, Sharapova, was forced to yield in the battle of the alpha females. Lisicki’s 6-4, 6-3 victory camouflages a multitude of plot twists, introduced from the opening chapter, when the number 15 seed conceded her serve, encumbered by three double faults.
Even the prologue to the match suggested a certain intrigue. Sharapova’s shrieking when she puts racquet on ball is possibly the loudest on the WTA tour. Lisicki has an acoustic threshold and she’s not afraid to raise a din about the issue.
During a second-round match against Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski, the German took umbrage at what she considered to be her opponent’s excessively robust grunting and spoke to umpire, Mariana Alves.
When Sharapova was confirmed as her next opponent, Lisicki admitted: “I’m going to focus on myself in that match. We will see what happens out there. It did bother me in my last match and that’s why I complained. It was better afterwards.”
She didn’t feel the need to cavil on Court One yesterday because the quality of her performance and the dominance she enjoyed for large tranches of this match superseded any peripheral concerns. Despite dropping that opening game on serve she won five of the next six but Sharapova clawed her way back to 5-4 down with her serve to follow.
In retrospect it was to prove a definitive moment in shaping the contest.
The world number one led 40-15 but conceded the next four points to lose the game and the set. It had a deflating effect.
Lisicki, in contrast, was energised, refusing to temper the aggressive nature of her play in the second set, a game plan that propelled her to the point where she was serving for the match.
It’s arguably her most precious asset, destructive in power terms – she has the fastest recorded serve of 120 miles per hour at this year’s tournament – and all afternoon had been a reliable means of gathering cheap points.
Pressure exacts a mental toll that can compromise the ability to execute physically.
Lisicki slapped a mid-court forehand long on her first match point and snatched at a routine backhand that rippled the bottom of the net on a second before finally bringing closure; an ace on second serve encapsulated her gung-ho mindset.
The German had never beaten Sharapova in three previous meetings, including losing to her in last year’s Wimbledon semi-final and in the fourth round of the Australian Open this year.
Understandably delighted – she smiled her way through the match – she admitted: “My game [plan] was to serve well and be aggressive. That’s what I did. I think it worked well.
“I think on grass you have to have a good serve. It gives you a great advantage. That’s what I have.
“I like to be aggressive in general, playing aggressive tennis, so I think that’s why grass suits me well. I like to move on it. Also the atmosphere here at Wimbledon is just amazing. All the traditions make me feel very comfortable here.”
Sharapova, in reflecting on a lost opportunity in the first set when she played some “sloppy” points, conceded: “I certainly had chances; I didn’t take them. But I think I a lot of the credit goes to my opponent. She played extremely well today and did many things better than I did on this given day. You just have to hand it to her.”
Defending champion Petra Kvitova outlasted Italian Francesca Schiavone 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, a match that was notable for the manner in which the combatants tossed the momentum backwards and forwards. Kvitova was very much out of sorts with her game; her footwork was imprecise and her technique suffered as a result.
The match was briefly interrupted for rain, causing a five-minute delay, and the Italian made no bones about the fact she thought play should have been stopped because of dangerous underfoot conditions. She complained to the umpire and was still angry afterwards.
Kvitova now plays Serena Williams who found Yaroslava Shvedova an obstinate opponent, the American eventually prevailing 6-1, 2-6, 7-5. She didn’t seem unduly concerned by her at times lacklustre display, at least not to the same degree as she felt when mobbed by spectators on her way back from Court Two.
“I literally was almost knocked over today. There were tons of security guards in there just going nuts and screaming. I’ve never heard them scream so loud. No, I wasn’t scared; [ain’t] nobody going to knock me over for real,” she said smiling. “I’d like to see that happen. You guys know how I can get.”
There was a poignant moment late in the afternoon when Kim Clijsters made a final bow at Wimbledon – she retires from professional tennis after the US Open, a tournament she’s won three times – when losing 6-1, 6-1 to Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
The Belgian refused to be maudlin: “I won’t be sorry about anything. I know that every time that I’ve played here I’ve given my best, and that’s the only thing that I can try. You know, some days it’s good, some days it’s great, and some days it’s not good enough.
“I’ll never say that I didn’t work hard enough or I didn’t practise hard enough. So I don’t think I’ll feel sorry about anything when I leave.”