Former champion Maria Sharapova saved six match points before falling to Angelique Kerber in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Tuesday, ending her bid to win a second title at the All England Club a decade after her first.
Sharapova, a five-time major champion, saved one match point at 5-2 down in the third set and five more in the final game before hitting a backhand long on the seventh.
That gave the ninth-seeded Kerber a stirring 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4 win on Centre Court in a match that lasted 2 hours, 37 minutes.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the German, a semifinalist two years ago. “It was so tough (a) match. Every single set was so close. Maria’s a great player. I was just fighting, concentrating and focusing on myself. I’m so happy to be in the quarters now.”
Kerber will next face 20-year-old Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard, the only woman to reach the semifinals this year at both the Australian Open and French Open. Bouchard beat Kerber in the fourth round at the French.
Sharapova, who won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17, was coming off her latest major championship at the French Open last month.
She had lost only seven games in the past week, and with five-time winner Serena Williams eliminated in the third round, Sharapova was considered the title favorite.
“It’s absolutely normal for people to have high expectations of me doing well in Grand Slam stages,” Sharapova said. “I certainly do, as well. Today could have gone either way, and it didn’t go my way.”
On a day when seven-time men’s champion Roger Federer sailed into the quarterfinals, Serena Williams pulled out of her doubles with sister Venus after only three games.
Serena was checked by medical staff before the match even began, and then had trouble serving over the net against Kristina Barrois and Stefanie Voegele.
The chair umpire climbed down and walked over to speak to Serena during the third game. She then served another double-fault to trail 3-0. The sisters walked to the sideline holding hands, and the match was stopped.
While Sharapova sought to dictate play with her big-swinging groundstrokes, Kerber played counter-attacking tennis and went for her shots when the opportunities came.
Sharapova had 57 winners - 30 more than Kerber - but also had 49 unforced errors, compared to only 11 for the German.
The match featured high tension and intensity. The shrieks emitted on virtually every point grew louder and louder as the match wore on.
The momentum swung back and forth, with Kerber going up 4-1 and saving two break points to lead 5-2 in the final set. She held a match point on Sharapova’s serve, but the Russian hit a deep backhand to the baseline that she couldn’t handle and the score went to 5-3.
With Kerber serving for the match in the next continued…