Wimbledon tennis: Sharapova stumbles; Serena survives

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Monday, July 2 2012 11:24 p.m. MDT

She used flat, powerful groundstrokes to neutralize Sharapova from the baseline. She also served bigger than Sharapova, reaching 118 mph and collecting six aces. A second-serve winner at 117 mph earned Lisicki's third match point, which she converted with a second-serve ace at 108 mph, then dropped to her knees and shook her fists while Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki cheered from her Court 1 guest box. (Former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen was watching Williams' match on Court 2.)

"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.' "

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."

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