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Old Jun 18th, 2011, 10:11 PM   #21
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Full fourth-round TV-report for Sharapova v S.Williams

=================
THE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Wimbledon, London, England; grass; Major)
=================-----------------------------
Fourth-round TV-report: Sharapova v S.Williams (Monday 28th June 2010)
----------------------------------------------

- MARIA SHARAPOVA [16,EF] lt. SERENA WILLIAMS [1], 6-7 (9/11) 4-6

Maria played much better than she did in the previous round against Barbora Záhlavová Strýcová, but really should have won at least the first set, as she had three set-points in the tiebreak.

The standard of play was so high: huge, deep serves, and anything short got punished. Williams was going for too much too soon in the rallies, which were therefore very short – in complete contrast to Maria’s third-round match. At least tiredness would not be a factor!

Williams made a ridiculous start, serving four aces in the opening game as she held to 30. Maria played a good service-game of her own to hold to 15, but Williams served two more aces as she held for 2-1*.

Knowing that she couldn’t afford to hit short second serves against Williams, Maria hit two double faults long as she was broken to love for 1-3*. But she became the first player to break Williams’s serve this Wimbledon, hitting a beautiful off-forehand drive-volley winner, and going on to level at 3-3*.

With games going with serve, Maria served to save the first set at *4-5 and *5-6, and hit a couple of amazing return-winners at 5-5* – sadly not rewarded with a break.

The tiebreak was Maria’s personal 9/11. She recovered from 1/3* with a hellacious crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline at *2/3, hit an off-forehand winner at 4/3*, and had 3 SPs (*6/4 and 8/7*) but wasted them with forced and unforced errors. Maria also saved Williams’s first 2 SPs (*6/7 and *8/9), but couldn’t do anything about the ace on the third.

The second set was an anticlimax, as Maria again threw in a bad service-game with two double faults to get broken for 1-2*, but this time there was no break back, and Williams finished with an incredible 19 aces.

Williams said: “She returned really well. It forced me to serve really well. She’s in it for every point. Even on match-point, she’s trying 200%.”

Maria said: “I played really well, and had my chances. If it was not for her really great serving, I certainly had a real good look at winning it. She served extremely well – some of the best she served against me. I gave her a run for her money, but that was really the difference.”

So yet another Wimbledon went by without Maria regaining the title she won as a 17-year-old – or even reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006 (when she reached the semi-finals for the third year in a row). Once a regular in Major semi-finals, she would go into the US Open 2010 having not reached a Major quarter-final for 15 months.


Prematch article
----------------

Sharapova shows no fear over Serena clash (Oliver Brown, The Daily Telegraph – UK, Monday 28th June 2010)
>>>
This Wimbledon has already staged more dramatic flights of fancy than the local Polka children’s theatre.

As Andy Roddick reminded assembled journalists last Friday night, if we are struggling for storylines here, we should be looking for another job.

Today, here’s another one: on Centre Court, it is 2004 revisited, as Maria Sharapova submits herself to another gruelling duel with Serena Williams.

To study that encounter is to be reminded instantly of their final six years ago, when Sharapova’s trademark screams were drowned out only by rapturous acclaim for the 17 year-old en route to her first Wimbledon title.

The Russian seemed an ingénue then, a coquettish teenager who was so obliging to photographers that, upon winning her last point against Williams, she strode into the crowd and collapsed into the arms of crying father Yuri.

Monday afternoon’s fourth-round meeting appears a little early for the re-enactment of such a storied rivalry. Truth be told, there has been less equality between the pair in recent years, and emphatically not when they contested another Major final in 2007. At the Australian Open, Williams betrayed a cold intent through her power-play, bullying her way to an avenging victory over Sharapova for the loss of just three games.

That change in the dynamic has lasted, with Williams having reclaimed the world No.1 ranking, and Sharapova only the 23rd seed, in a reflection of the ragged form that has accompanied her bothersome shoulder-injury. But she did not perceive a draw against her nemesis this early in the second week as premature.

“I love playing against her,” Sharapova said. “She’s the defending champion. She’s great on this surface. She has won numerous Slams [sic]. If there’s a challenge ahead of you, it’s definitely playing against her – and I enjoy that.”

Williams, supremely indifferent about reminders of her 6-1 6-4 loss on the same stage, was equally generous. “I don’t think it’s too early,” she said. “It is what it is. You obviously have to be ready. She’s really good, especially on grass.”

Williams was patently not herself on that strange Saturday afternoon, and has been back to her uncompromising best so far this year.

In the three early rounds, she has won each first set 6-0. If that were not frightening enough, listen to her service-statistics from a third-round dismembering of the hapless Dominika Cibulkova: 20 aces, 37 of 43 service-points won, a first set wrapped up in 18 minutes.

“Serving that well feels awesome,” Williams said. “I serve well at Wimbledon for some reason. I wish I could serve like this [at] every tournament.”

Sharapova is grateful to be serving at all after all the physiotherapy she has had on her shoulder, and wise enough not to be thinking dreamily of 2004. “That was our last meeting on grass. It’s tough to take anything away from that match, as it was so many years ago.”

Exuding a confidence about her future, she explained: “You know this will be a new day. I look back, and it’s difficult to compare yourself to what you were. It’s a different time in my career.”

So, a new day, but, in the daunting shape of Williams, the same old roadblock lies ahead.
<<<


First set
---------
SHARAPOV _*__@*_*_*_*_ 6(9)
WILLIAMS *_*@__*_*_*_T 7(11)

The match was second on Centre Court, and started at 14:53 BST.

Williams serving 0-0: Ace out wide: deep in the corner. Barry Davies: “Number 45 of the championship.” 15/0. Maria’s deep off-forehand return just inside the baseline forced Williams to net a backhand. 15/15. Ace out wide. 30/15. Ace out wide: just inside the service-line. 40/15 (GP #1). Double fault #1 (second serve into the net). 40/30 (GP #2). Ace down the middle. Held.

Awesome serving by Williams: four aces in a game! There’s not much Maria can do about that, so she needs to hold serve reliably today.

Tracy Austin: “One big difference in this match will be the movement of the two players. Serena is just about one of the best movers on the grass and on the Tour, along with sister Venus. Maria, when she gets in a defensive position, it’s tough to bring the point back to neutral.”

Maria serving 0-1: Deep first serve down the middle forced Williams to hit an off-backhand return wide. 15/0. Deep second serve out wide – just inside the sideline – forced Williams to hit a crosscourt backhand wide. 30/0. The first extended rally of the match ended with Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand inducing Williams to spray a crosscourt forehand wide. 40/0 (GP #1). Williams’s deep crosscourt backhand return just inside the baseline forced Maria to mishit a crosscourt backhand wide. 40/15 (GP #2). Body-jamming second serve forced Williams to net a backhand. Held.

Good serving by Maria, and she becomes the first opponent of Williams to avoid a first-set bagel so far this Wimbledon.

Williams serving 1-1: Ace down the middle. 15/0. Ace out wide: deep in the corner and just inside the sideline. 30/0. Deep first serve down the middle forced Maria to block a backhand return long. 40/0 (GP #1). A would-be ace out wide was called wide. Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand forced Williams to spray a forehand long. 40/15 (GP #2). Maria forced Williams to retreat with a deep backhand lob just inside the baseline, but couldn’t capitalise, and Williams hit an off-forehand winner just inside the sideline. Held.

Maria serving 1-2: Double fault (second serve just long; Maria wasted a challenge). 0/15. Second serve: Williams’s deep crosscourt backhand return just inside the baseline forced Maria to hit a backhand long. 0/30. Double fault (second serve just long). 0/40 (BP #1). First serve down the middle: Williams hit a crosscourt forehand winner deep in the corner. Broken.

Maria knows she can’t afford to hit short second serves against Williams, hence the two second serves long.

Williams serving 3-1: Service-winner out wide. 15/0. Second serve: Maria forced a floater, and dispatched it with a beautiful off-forehand drive-volley winner. 15/15. Ace #7: out wide, just inside the service-line. 30/15. Double fault (second serve clipped the netcord and fell back on Williams’s side). 30/30. Williams netted an off-backhand off a very short return, and emitted a high-pitched yell. 30/40 (BP #1). Williams on the third stroke hit a backhand just long. Held.

Maria becomes the first player to break Williams’s serve this Wimbledon.

Maria serving 3-2: First serve out wide + deep crosscourt forehand back behind Williams forced Williams to spray a crosscourt forehand long and wide. 15/0. Deep first serve down the middle forced Williams to hit a forehand return long. 30/0. Deep first serve out wide – on the service-line – forced Williams to net a forehand return. 40/0 (GP #1). Deep second serve out wide: Williams hammered a crosscourt backhand return-winner. 40/15 (GP #2). Deep first serve down the middle forced Williams to hit a backhand return long. Maria bent over and said “c’mon”. Held.

Tremendous fightback by Maria. The standard of play is so high: huge, deep serves, and anything short gets punished. Williams is going for too much too soon in the rallies.

Williams serving 3-3: First serve: Maria hit a stunning crosscourt backhand return-winner. 0/15. First serve down the middle + off-forehand winner back behind Maria. 15/15. Would-be ace out wide called let. Ace out wide: on the sideline. 30/15. Service-winner out wide. 40/15 (GP #1). Body-jamming second serve out wide induced Maria to net an off-backhand return. Held.

Maria serving 3-4 (new balls): First serve out wide: Maria hit a short-angled crosscourt forehand return-winner onto the sideline. 15/0. Williams blasted a forehand long. 30/0. Second serve out wide: off-backhand return-winner. 30/15. Ace #1: down the middle: just inside the service-line. 40/15 (GP #1). Deep second serve: Williams hit a makeable backhand return just long. Held.

Williams serving 4-4: Maria hit a crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline, but it was called wide. Maria issued a Hawk-Eye challenge to show that it caught the sideline by 7 mm! 0/15. Williams hit a down-the-line backhand wide, and there was an anxious look on her face. 0/30. Deep second serve: Maria hit a wild backhand return long. 15/30. Big second serve down the middle + crosscourt forehand winner. 30/30. Ace down the middle: on the service-line. 40/30 (GP #1). Ace out wide: just inside the service-line. Held.

A 0/30 opening goes begging, despite Maria receiving second serves on the next two points. It would have been so cool if she could have won this set 6-4.

Maria serving 4-5: 112mph first serve out wide: Williams forehand return long. 15/0. Deep first serve out wide – on the service-line – forced Williams to net a backhand. 30/0. Double fault (second serve clipped the netcord and fell long). 30/15. Deep first serve down the middle – just inside the service-line – forced Williams to lunge wide and net a forehand return. 40/15 (GP #1). Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand induced Williams to spray a forehand long. Held.

Williams continues to be erratic when she can’t get the first strike.

Williams serving 5-5: Double fault (second serve just long). Williams hit the dead ball behind her back, and it hit the umpire’s chair, to the amusement of the crowd. 0/15. Williams went to the net, and picked off Maria’s crosscourt forehand with a forehand drop-volley winner. Ace down the middle. 30/15. First serve out wide: Maria hit a blazing short-angled crosscourt backhand return-winner. 30/30. Williams’s short-angled crosscourt forehand to the sideline forced Maria to run outside the tramlines and hit a forehand long. 40/30 (GP #1). First serve out wide: Maria hit a blazing short-angled crosscourt backhand return-winner! Deuce #1. Williams’s deep crosscourt forehand forced Maria to bunt a crosscourt forehand wide. Ad Williams (GP #2). Deep second serve into the corner forced Maria to hit a crosscourt backhand wide. Held.

Two amazing return-winners by Maria, but sadly no break. Barry Davies: “The entertainment-level has risen considerably.”

Maria serving 5-6: First serve down the middle forced Williams to stretch wide and earth a backhand return. 15/0. Maria’s deep backhand down the line – just inside the baseline – forced Williams to hit a crosscourt forehand wide. 30/0. First serve out wide forced a short return, but Maria dumped a cheap forehand into the net. 30/15. First serve out wide forced Williams to hit a backhand long. 40/15 (GP #1). Williams off-backhand wide. Held.

Tracy Austin: “Sharapova has raised the level of her game from her last match. Drastic change. She is just going for it, and she has found her range. She’s the one with less pressure.”

6-6 tiebreak (all scores Sharapova/Williams):
{0/0*} Ace down the middle.
{*0/1} Ace down the middle.
{*1/1} Double fault #4 (second serve just long).
{1/2*} Maria went to the net, but her down-the-line forehand volley gave Williams a crosscourt backhand pass-winner just inside the sideline. This point was selected for the BBC’s highlights-show Today at Wimbledon, with John Inverdale claiming that it was the best point of the entire Championships! Well, no.
{1/3*} Maria’s deep forehand return down the line forced Williams to hit a backhand just long.
{*2/3} Deep first serve down the middle + hellacious crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline.
{*3/3} Deep first serve down the middle forced Williams to hit a crosscourt backhand wide.
{4/3*} Maria’s off-forehand winner clipped the netcord and landed just inside the sideline.
{5/3*} Maria hit a makeable backhand return long.
{*5/4} Maria’s deep forehand forced Williams to net a backhand.
{*6/4: SP #1 for Maria} A brief rally ended with Maria unforcedly netting a forehand.
{6/5*: SP #2 for Maria} Second serve... Williams hit a pinpoint backhand onto Maria’s right sideline, forcing her to bunt a crosscourt forehand wide.
{6/6*} Deep first serve out wide forced a short return; Williams hit a backhand approach right to Maria’s forehand, but Maria hit a makeable down-the-line forehand pass wide.
{*6/7: SP #1 for Williams} Second serve out wide: Williams dumped a cheap backhand return into the net.
{*7/7} Deep first serve out wide forced Williams to net a forehand return.
{8/7*: SP #3 for Maria} Deep first serve down the middle forced Maria to hit a forehand return long.
{8/8*} First serve down the middle forced Maria to hit an off-backhand wide.
{*8/9: SP #2 for Williams} First serve into the net. Brave second serve out wide forced Williams to hit a crosscourt backhand return wide.
{*9/9} Double fault (wild second serve very long).
{9/10*: SP #3 for Williams} Ace down the middle: just inside the service-line. Williams won the first set 7-6 (11/9) at 15:50 BST (57m). She celebrated with a shout of “yes”.

Tracy Austin: “I have not seen Maria Sharapova serve this big since she’s been back from the shoulder-surgery – particularly on a consistent basis. It’s a good sign: it means that all doubt about her arm has been erased.”


Second set
----------
SHARAPOV *___*_*_*_ 4
WILLIAMS _*@*_*_*_* 6

Maria serving 0-0: Deep first serve down the middle forced Williams to hit a backhand return long. 15/0. Maria went to the net and hit a forehand drive-volley that jammed Williams into netting a forehand volley. 30/0. First serve out wide, but Maria netted a forehand. 30/15. First serve out wide forced Williams to net a backhand. 40/15 (GP #1). First serve out wide forced Williams to net a forehand return. Held.

Williams serving 0-1: First serve out wide – just inside the sideline – forced Maria to hit a crosscourt forehand wide. 15/0. Deep first serve down the middle forced Maria to hit a forehand long. 30/0. Double fault #4 (second serve into the net). 30/15. Maria poked back a short off-forehand return, but Williams slapped a wild backhand into the net. 30/30. Ace #14: down the middle, just inside the service-line. 40/30 (GP #1). First serve forced a very short return; Williams ran it down and hit a forehand winner down the line. Held.

Maria serving 1-1: Deep first serve down the middle: backhand return long. 15/0. Williams’s deep forehand just inside the baseline forced Maria to net a backhand. 15/15. Double fault (second serve into the top of the net). 15/30. Double fault (second serve clipped the netcord and fell wide). 15/40 (BP #1). First serve out wide forced a short return, but Maria’s forehand clipped the netcord and fell back on her side. Broken.

A set and a break down now, but Maria recovered from 1-3* in the first set, so she’s not out of this match yet.

Williams serving 2-1 (new balls): First serve out wide forced a short return, which Williams dispatched with a deep forehand winner down the line. 15/0. Deep first serve out wide forced Maria to hit a backhand return long. 30/0. Maria’s backhand clipped the netcord and dropped dead for a winner. 30/15. First serve out wide forced a short return, which Williams dispatched with a crosscourt forehand winner. 40/15 (GP #1). Williams forced a short return but dumped a forehand into the net – poor footwork. 40/30 (GP #2). Williams ran down a dropshot-return in plenty of time, but unbelievably dumped a forehand into the net. Tracy Austin: “I think she saw Sharapova out of the corner of her eye going to the left, and tried to cut it too fine.” Deuce #1. First serve out wide: Maria netted a makeable forehand return, and looked “furious with herself”. Ad Williams (GP #3). Deep second serve on the service-line induced Maria to net a backhand return. Held.

Maria serving 1-3: Maria went to the net behind a short-angled crosscourt backhand to the sideline, hit an impressive crosscourt forehand volley from below the height of the net, which landed deep in the corner; on the 4:3 TV-screen that I had at the time, it looked like Williams ripped a running crosscourt forehand pass-winner, but it must have gone wide. 15/0. Maria tried to serve and volley, but dumped an awkward low off-forehand volley into the net. 15/15. Body-jamming serve forced Williams to hit a forehand return long. 30/15. Williams’s deep forehand down the line induced Maria to net a backhand – really should have made it, though. 30/30. Deep first serve out wide forced Williams to hit a forehand long. 40/30 (GP #1). Ace down the middle. Held.

Williams serving 3-2: Body-jamming second serve induced Maria to hit a backhand return long. 15/0. Maria went to the net and hit a deep forehand down the line, but Maria hit an amazing half-volley backhand lob-winner just inside the baseline!! 15/15. Ace down the middle. 30/15. Maria’s off-forehand return forced a short return, but Maria hit a wild off-forehand wide. Tracy Austin: “She could have gone for a beautiful angle. Today, she really seems excited about going for everything with power. Quick points.” 40/15 (GP #1). Serve out wide + crosscourt forehand forced Maria to bunt a forehand long. Held.

Maria serving 2-4: Deep first serve forced Williams to hit a backhand long. 15/0. First serve out wide, but a short, low-bouncing return induced Maria to net a backhand. 15/15. Deep first serve out wide forced Williams to net a forehand return. 30/15. Williams hit a backhand return just long. But she made a successful challenge, so they had to replay the point. Deep first serve out wide forced Williams to hit a backhand return long. 40/15 (GP #1). Maria forehand just long. 40/30 (GP #2). Maria went to the net, forcing Williams to hit a forehand lob just wide. Held.

Williams serving 4-3: Ace down the middle: just inside the service-line. 15/0. Ace #17: down the middle, short on the centre-line. 30/0. Ace #18: down the middle, just inside the service-line. 40/0 (GP #1). Deep first serve down the middle forced Maria to stretch wide and net a forehand return. Held.

Tracy Austin: “She skips up to the line – always such positive body-language, never giving anything away about the disappointment of where she is in a match.”

Maria serving 3-5: Deep first serve down the middle – on the service-line – forced Williams to net a forehand return. 15/0. Williams’s deep crosscourt forehand just inside the baseline forced Maria to net a forehand. 15/15. First serve out wide: Williams hit a stunning crosscourt forehand return-winner just inside the baseline – Maria was right there, but the angle was too acute for her to get her racket on it. 15/30. Maria hit a deep forehand just inside the baseline, forcing Williams to net a backhand. 30/30. Deep 111mph first serve down the middle forced Williams to earth a backhand return. 40/30 (GP #1). Deep first serve out wide forced Williams to net a backhand return. Held.

Tracy Austin: “I’m sure if you asked Serena whether she’s returning serve well today, she probably wouldn’t think she is – but she’s got to give some of that credit to Sharapova. Her fastest serve today was 116 mph. The fastest of her career was a couple of weeks ago in Birmingham: 121 mph for Sharapova.”

Williams serving 5-4: Ace out wide: right in the corner. 15/0. Deep first serve out wide forced Maria to net a backhand return. Barry Davies: “Still trying to believe.” 30/0. Maria hit a thunderous deep backhand return down Williams’s left sideline and went to the net, but hit a backhand drive-volley wide. 40/0 (MP #1 for Williams). Would-be ace down the middle just long. Double fault (second serve clipped the netcord and fell long). 40/15 (MP #2 for Williams). First serve out wide + off-forehand forced Maria to hit an off-backhand wide. Williams won 7-6 (11/9) 6-4 at 16:30 BST (second set 39m, match 1h36m).

Barry Davies: “It started as wham-bang, then got better.”
Tracy Austin: “Maria will be disappointed today, but when she reflects on this match, she’ll realise that she is going forward in her comeback.”


Williams’s BBC interview
------------------------

PHIL JONES: “Well, tremendous performance, Serena, against a top-class player in Maria. You pulled out a champion’s performance, it seemed.”

SERENA WILLIAMS: “Yeah, I guess. She played really well, and I just wasn’t able to do as well as I wanted to do, but I thought she played so well today, and she’s really doing good.”

PHIL JONES: “The thing is: when you’re down, as you were in that tiebreak – two set-points against you – you pull on that champion’s know-how, that determination, and pull yourself out of it.”

SERENA WILLIAMS: “I know. I don’t know how I do it. I was just like, ‘Okay, Serena, like, you haven’t been doing great, you just like, relax,’ and I was able to do that, and come through.”

PHIL JONES: “Does this place help you? You’ve been here, you’ve been a champion so many times.”

SERENA WILLIAMS: “Yeah. I mean: yeah. And the crowd was great, and I was really happy that they were out there, rooting really hard for me.”

PHIL JONES: “So it’s onwards and upwards now. Nŕ Lǐ in the quarter-finals – what about that?”

SERENA WILLIAMS: “Well, I definitely expect a much tougher match, so I have to keep being ready, and she’s such a good player, so we always have such tough matches, so we’ll see what happens.”

PHIL JONES: “Well done today on getting through.”

SERENA WILLIAMS: “Thank you.”


Maria’s BBC interview
---------------------

INTERVIEWER: “So, are you gonna take some satisfaction away from this year’s Wimbledon, or a little bit of frustration?”

MARIA SHARAPOVA: “Well, look: I mean: I’m a competitor and I love to win, and there’s only one winner at the end of the tournament, and I really, really want it to be me, but today’s situation didn’t happen, and that’s the way it goes, but I’m certainly not leaving here disappointed that I lost. I know that I went out there and did what I could do, and today just wasn’t enough.”


Postmatch articles
------------------

Serena halts Sharapova charge [skytext 480]
>>>
Serena Williams won a dramatic first-set tiebreak to set her on the way to the Wimbledon quarter-finals with a 7-6 (11/9) 6-3 win over Maria Sharapova on Centre Court.

The match started in the brutal fashion that had been expected – with both players blasting fierce groundstrokes.

Williams was the first to show as she powered her way to a break of serve in the fourth game, but the Russian rallied to break back in the fifth.

There were no further breakthroughs, and a tense tiebreak ensued, with Williams gaining an early mini-break – only to throw it away.

Sharapova wasted two set-points, allowing Williams back into it – and the American seized her chance with an emphatic set-clinching ace.

One break proved enough in the second, as a deflated Sharapova surrendered serve in the third game to allow Williams to coast home.

Williams said: “She returned really well. It forced me to serve really well. She’s in it for every point. Even on match-point, she’s trying 200%.

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve had tough matches this whole trip. I’ve played some players who have been among the best in this tournament.”

Sharapova added: “I played really well, and had my chances. If it was not for her really great serving, I certainly had a real good look at winning it.

“She served extremely well – some of the best she served against me. I gave her a run for her money, but that was really the difference.”
<<<

Serena ends Sharapova challenge (David Ornstein, BBC Sport)
Williams praises beaten Sharapova
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/8768816.stm
>>>
Defending champion Serena Williams came through her first genuine test to see off a resurgent Maria Sharapova and reach the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.

The American top seed beat her Russian opponent 7-6 (11/9) 6-4 to set up a last-eight meeting with China’s Lǐ,Nŕ.

Sharapova, who overcame Williams in the 2004 final, bounced back from an early break of serve, but squandered three set-points in the first-set tiebreak.

Williams then broke once in the second before serving out for a 96-minute win.

“She played really well, and is really doing good,” the world number-one, who remains on course to meet sister Venus in the final, told BBC Sport.

“I don’t know how I pull myself out of situations like that tiebreak – I was just able to relax. The crowd was great, and I was really happy [that] they were rooting really hard for me.”

Williams said before the match that she was not entirely happy with her current form but, on this evidence, she has little cause for concern as she continues her bid for a 13th Major title.

While ninth seed Lǐ is sure to pose a threat following her 6-3 6-2 win against seventh seed Agnieszka Radwańska, Williams has won four of their previous five meetings.

And, if she can reproduce the performance-level that got her past Sharapova, a semi-final berth should beckon.

“She served extremely well: the best she’s ever served against me, and that was the difference,” Sharapova said of Williams, who sent down 19 aces, and won 84% of points on her first serve.

“I had a few looks at her serve, but when they’re coming out at 120 mph it’s pretty hard to do anything about it. She wins the majority of matches by serving well, so you’ve got to win your own service-games to stand any chance.

“I did that today, but not well enough. I played really well, and had my chances in the first set. I felt really good, and gave her a run for her money.

“I’m in a much better place than I was last year, playing well and feeling great.”

Williams and Sharapova were meeting at Wimbledon for the first time since the 2004 final, when the Russian triumphed as a 17-year-old to become the second-youngest SW19 champion in the Open Era.

It was an eagerly-anticipated encounter, and although the pair arrived to a sparsely-populated Centre Court – the crowd having filtered out after Roger Federer’s victory over Jürgen Melzer – there was soon not a seat to be had.

And it was easy to see why, as Williams opened with a flurry of aces, and Sharapova responded by offering a commanding service-hold of her own in the second game.

It was the first time in this year’s tournament that Williams had conceded a game in the opening set, and she responded with another three aces before cranking up the pressure on her opponent’s serve.

Sharapova went long, and then netted to fall 0/40 down in the fourth game, and Williams wasted no time in wrapping up the break with a crunching forehand return.

But the three-time Major champion – fully recovered from the shoulder-injury that saw her miss nine months and drop to 126th in the world in May 2009 – was in no mood to be rolled over, and hit straight back when Williams lifted a backhand beyond the baseline.

For long periods, this was not one for the purists, with no quarter asked or given by either woman, but they played out a gripping tiebreak, and Sharapova will be left to rue her missed opportunities.

After hitting back from an early mini-break, and then coming up with a stinging forehand winner to move 5/3 ahead, Williams netted a backhand to bring up 6/4 and two set-points.

Two wayward forehands put paid to Sharapova’s hopes on that occasion, and she wasted a third opportunity at 8/7, going into the tramlines with a forehand return.

A double fault at 9/9 gave Williams her third opening, and the 28-year-old showed all her experience to seal the set with a thumping ace.

There was, again, precious little to chose between the players in the second, but Sharapova, 23, seemed to lose her concentration in the third game, and was duly punished.

Another double fault and netted forehand saw Williams break to 15, and she never looked back, reeling off unstoppable deliveries and winners before taking the second of three break-points when Sharapova put a backhand wide.
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Dr. Andrew Broad

P.S. I don’t have time to finish Vera Zvonarëva’s Wimbledon 2010 reports before Wimbledon 2011, so I now plan to post her quarter-final, semi-final and final reports – in singles and doubles – in July and August 2011.
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My Eternal Fanship: 1. Monica Seles; 2. Мария Шарапова (‘Maria Sharapova’); 3. Daniela Hantuchová; 4. Jelena Dokić; 5. Iva Majoli; 6. Karina Habšudová; 7. Вера Звонарёва (‘Vera Zvonarëva’); 8. Nicole Vaidišová; 9. Анна Чакветадзе (‘Anna Chakvetadze’); 10. Lucie Šafářová; 11. Ирода Туляганова (‘Iroda Tulyaganova’); 12. Magdaléna Rybáriková; 13. Sabine Lisicki

Last edited by andrewbroad : Jun 18th, 2011 at 10:20 PM.
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