Opportunity knocks as outsiders reach semis
Updated: 2013-07-03 09:34
LONDON - The leading ladies have exited stage left but the understudies kept this most volatile of Wimbledon scripts bubbling along on Tuesday to ensure a new name will be engraved on the trophy come Saturday.
Emerging from a quarterfinal line-up featuring women from eight different nations and with just two grand slam titles between them were Sabine Lisicki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and, most surprising of all, Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.
Fourth seed Radwanska, last year's runner-up, outlasted China's Li Na in an absorbing three-set battle before the unorthodox Bartoli beat American upstart Sloane Stephens 6-4 7-5 and Belgian Flipkens reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in three sets.
Lisicki, trying to become Germany's first Grand Slam singles champion since Steffi Graf in 1996, will take on fourth seed Radwanska on Thursday while Flipkens, languishing at 262nd in the world a year ago, will play 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Bartoli.
After the demise of so many fancied players, opportunity is knocking loudly for one of them.
"It's not exactly what we were planning on," nine-times Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova told Reuters.
"But it's the best opportunity ever for one of them. It's great we'll have a new champion and it just shows that this sport can be so unpredictable.
"Serena was the favorite now we'll have a new winner."
Navratilova picked out Lisicki as her tip for the title and the way the world No 24 dismantled Kanepi a day after stunning five-times champion Williams the momentum appears to be with the big-serving German who was a semifinalist two years ago.
Until Tuesday the giant-slayers have had short shelf lives with Steve Darcis, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Michelle Larcher de Brito - who took out Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova respectively - all failing to last another round.
Not so Lisicki, who needed only 65 minutes for victory.
"I feel much fresher, fitter, better than two years ago," said Lisicki who lost to Sharapova in the 2011 semis. "I was just as focused as yesterday because ... I knew it's going to be tough after yesterday to just keep the level up.
"But I think I did a very good job to go for my shots and play smart. It had to be a different game today."
Radwanska and former French Open winner Li produced two hours 43 minutes of enthralling action on Center Court in a match that finished under cover after two rain interruptions.
Great improviser Radwanska, one of three Poles to reach the singles quarterfinals here, showed incredible resistance and Houdini-like escapology to win points that seemed beyond her during a 7-6(5) 4-6 6-2 victory over the powerful Chinese.