Maria Sharapova goes on to semifinals at Wimbledon
Maria Sharapova beat Dominika Cibulkova at Wimbledon, Tuesday, to continue on to the semifinals. Sharapova will face Sabine Lisicki. Thursday.
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"Yeah," Lisicki said, "that was a little bit different."Skip to next paragraph
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Sharapova was Tuesday's only participant with a Grand Slam title already on her resume. She has three, part of a quick rise to the top of tennis: ranked No. 1 at 18; 2006 U.S. Open champion at 19; 2008 Australian Open champion at 20.
But her shoulder operation in October 2008 not only kept her away from the tour for several months, it also forced her to tinker with her service motion and made her question when she'd again play as well as she once had.
Sharapova went more than three years between Grand Slam semifinals, until getting that far at the French Open earlier this month. Now she wants another major title.
"It's great, the fact that I've had the experience of being in those stages. But I haven't been for a while, so it's a nice and refreshing feeling to have," Sharapova said. "I've put a lot of work in."
The first game Tuesday was the only time Cibulkova held serve; Sharapova broke her six times.
Hitting deep, flat forehands and backhands, Sharapova finished with a 23-3 edge in winners, marking most with a high-pitched shriek. She limited herself to 10 unforced errors, one fewer than Cibulkova, who beatSharapova in the 2009 French Open quarterfinals.
All in all, according to Sharapova's coach, Thomas Hogstedt, "It was a statement."
"It's been, I think, a struggle for the last few years," Hogstedt said, "and step-by-step, she has been working hard to come back. ... It's been a process. I don't think she believed this (would happen) a half-year ago."
When her victory over Cibulkova ended, 60 minutes after it began, Sharapova raised both arms and yelled, "Come on!" Leaving the court, Sharapova pulled out a pink pen, ready to offer the autographs being requested by fans in front-row seats.
Clearly, she's done this all before.
Given what she went through the past few years, a Wimbledon championship now would be more gratifying than past accomplishments.
"Absolutely," Sharapova said, "it would mean more to me."
Her next opponent, the 62nd-ranked Lisicki, also has rediscovered her game recently.
Lisicki missed seven months last year because of a left ankle injury — "I had to start to learn how to walk again," she says — and dropped out of the top 200.
But her movement is fine now, and her big serve is as good as ever. She hit nine aces against Bartoli.
There's more to Lisicki than that, though. She produced a total of 52 winners, 40 more than Bartoli, and won 13 points with the help of delicate drop shots.
"I'm so thankful to be out there on the court again that I'm enjoying every minute of it," said Lisicki, 11-0 on grass courts in 2011.
There was only one, brief lapse, although it nearly changed the outcome. Lisicki held three match points while serving for the victory at 5-4 in the second set — and she made mistakes on all three. Eventually, she double-faulted to get broken, and when 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Bartoli won the tiebreaker with a drop shot of her own, they were tied at a set apiece.
"I started to get tentative," Lisicki acknowledged.
Bartoli, though, was spent, and Lisicki pulled away in the third set.
"All of a sudden," Bartoli said, "my whole body just shut down."
At 26, Bartoli was the oldest quarterfinalist.
At 21, Lisicki thinks she's more mature than when she lost in three sets to Dinara Safina in the 2009 Wimbledon quarterfinals.
"I'm more experienced and calmer. ... Two years ago, it was different. I was more nervous. I couldn't sleep so good," Lisicki said. "But now it's different. Also, after the injury, it's so nice to be back. I know how fast it can be gone."
So does Sharapova.