The shock losses suffered by top two seeds Serena Williams and Li Na have left Maria Sharapova with a smooth passage and the Russian is primed to win her second Wimbledon title, 10 years after winning her first as a 17-year-old. Sharapova has dropped just seven games in her three matches thus far and the imperious Russian will be confident of winning her sixth grand slam in the absence of her nemesis Williams.
The 27-year-old is on the wrong end of a 16-2 head-to-head record against the American with her only two triumphs coming in 2004, the first of which saw her crowned Wimbledon champion. Williams crashed out 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 against France’s Alize Cornet in the third round on Saturday, her earliest exit at Wimbledon since losing in the same round in 2005. Her defeat came a day after Chinese two-times Grand Slam winner Na was dumped out 6-7(5) 6-7(5) by the Czech Republic’s Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
Their defeats have opened the door for a host of women, but the top of that list is Sharapova. Players have long talked about the difficulty of adapting to the grasscourts of Wimbledon so soon after a long claycourt season and nobody has backed up winning the French Open with Wimbledon triumph since Williams in 2002. Sharapova’s form, however, suggests she can match that achievement and win her sixth grand slam in the process.
Higher seeds remain but Sharapova’s biggest challenge is likely to come in the shape of rising star Eugenie Bouchard, a semi-finalist in the last two grand slams at the Australian and French Open.
The aggressive 20-year-old Canadian faces Williams’ conqueror Cornet in the next round with a potential quarter-final against Sharapova the prize. “I wouldn’t consider myself deep into Wimbledon at this stage,” Bouchard said after beating Germany’s Andrea Petkovic Saturday.
“I’m into the second week, which is great. But, you know, I want to go so much further. At the same time I’m focused on one match at a time. “But, of course, Wimbledon is probably the most prestigious tournament in the world. It’s a special place to be here and I would love to stay a really long time.”
Paes survives, Sania ousted
Fifth seeded Indo-Czeck pair of Paes and Stepanek had to battle for three hours to douse the challenge of Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 11-9 in the rain-hit marathon opening round of the grass court Grand Slam on Saturday. Paes and Stepanek could convert only four of the 17 break chances in the contest even as they dropped serve twice.
Meanwhile, fourth seeds Sania and her Zimbabwean partner Cara suffered a shock 6-2 6-7(7) 4-6 defeat at the hands of unseeded Russian-Czech pair of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova. Ironically, Sania and Cara won four more points to 111 of their rivals and converted more break chances (6) than Anastasia and Lucie (5) but ended up on the wrong side of the result.