2011 Wimbledon: Maria Sharapova Favorite to Win Her 2nd Wimbledon
Four weeks ago Maria Sharapova, Na Li, Marion Bartoli and Francesca Schiavon were the guest of the French Open semifinals. At that time, the Russian and the Italian were the only one to have won majors.
The 2004 Wimbledon champion had a rare opportunity to grab the only Grand Slam missing in her resume. However, Na Li made the best use of her nerves and the wind to beat Sharapova and the 2010 Roland-Garros champion Francesca Schiavone to become the first Chinese player to win a major.
Since Roland-Garros, Sharapova had to digest her disappointment and came back to Wimbledon as sharp as ever.
It is another testimony to the 24-year-old mindset. Sharapova has the ability, like true great champions, to forget about a bad loss and go back to the practice courts to improve more and more every day.
Sharapova improved her movement on court thanks to her Italian Open title and her semifinal run at Roland-Garros.
At Wimbledon it's more about the 2008 US Open champion serve. Sharapova also likes to hit winners after only two, or three shots which is why grass suites the 24-year-old's game perfectly.
If Sharapova can play until Saturday, on Championship day, without being injured there is no reason why she could not overcome the threat of Lisicki, and Azarenka, or Kvitova, who do not have the experience of winning a Grand Slam.
The "Siberian Siren" demolished Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals of the grass court Grand Slam 6-1 6-1 to reach the last four where she will meet German's Sabine Lisicki, who eliminated Marion Bartoli.
Lisicki, 21, posted an emotional 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 triumph.
But Sharapova's tennis was in a different class.
Sharapova is bidding for her fourth major after overcoming severe shoulder problems.
"It's really an honour to be here," Sharapova said after her quarterfinal victory.
"It's been a few years since I've been in the semifinals, so it's great to be back.
"Iv'e got a tough opponent coming up and I'm looking forward to that.
"This is an opponent who is playing great grass court tennis, so I know I will have to play my best.
"To be in the semis of Wimbledon is a bonus, to be able to come back and play tennis is wonderful.
"But the tournament isn't over."
Meanwhile, Marion Bartoli, who beat Serena Williams on Monday was tough and brave, saving three match points in the second set, but simply ran out of gas.
Lisicki needed a wild card to participate in the main draw after a severe ankle injury last season forced the German out of competition for five months.
The injury was so bad, Lisicki had to learn how to walk again.
"It's been such a tough road back," Lisicki said, fighting back tears of joy.
"It is just so wonderful to be here.
"I don't know what to say, I'm so speechless. It hasn't sunk in yet.
"I felt that I was the better player today and I knew I had to focus and fight in the third set to win it.
But since returning on her preferred grass, world No. 62 Lisicki has been unstoppable.
With victory at Nottingham in a lead-up event and five victories at the All England Club, Lisicki is undefeated on the surface this year.
She is the first German to reach the last four at Wimbledon since seven-time champion Steffi Graf in 1998.
Bartoli had nothing left after gruelling wins over Flavia Pennetta and defending champion Serena Williams.
Lisicki won the first six points of the match to take early control—and a break of serve—under the closed centre court roof.
But, with thunderstorms rolling through the area, Lisicki surrendered the advantage as Bartoli quickly levelled.
She swiftly regained control—and a decisive break—to hold sway throughout the first set.
Lisicki wrapped up the set after 43 minutes, expertly deploying a barrage of drop shots to exploit Bartoli's habit of straddling the baseline.
Serving solidly, Lisicki appeared in control—but the contest turned in the fourth game of the second set when the German nervously netted a forehand to fall behind 1-3.
And when Lisicki grabbed a 5-4 lead when Bartoli lost serve with a loose forehand, the German served for the match.
It was a disaster.
She created three match points, but collapsed with a muffed drop shot followed by a wide forehand.
With Bartoli grimly hanging on, Lisicki double-faulted for the first time in the match to drop serve.
Bartoli snared the tiebreak, again hunting Lisicki into unforced error as nerves took over.
Inevitably, Bartoli's condition gave out.
She crumpled to a 0-3 deficit and then surrendered in the sixth game with a double break to trail 1-5.
This time, there was no escape for Bartoli as she pulled a weary forehand low into the net after 2 hrs, 21 mins.
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