Published July 02, 2013
LONDON – Serena Williams sounded far less surprised than pretty much anyone else that her 34-match winning streak ended.
At Wimbledon, where she was seeded No. 1 and is a five-time champion.
Despite leading 3-0 and 4-2 in the final set.
In the fourth round.
Against someone seeded 23rd.
"Come on, guys, let's get with it. She's excellent," Williams said. "She's not a pushover."
That clearly is true about Sabine Lisicki. Still, it was surprising to see Williams lose after going unbeaten — and generally looking unbeatable — for 4½ months, until slumping down the stretch and bowing out 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 Monday against Lisicki by dropping the last four games.
"I felt," said Williams, the defending champion, "that I was on the verge of winning."
But her collapse, and the demise of the longest winning streak in women's tennis since 2000, fit right in at this unpredictable Wimbledon, where up is down, where seedings and pedigree mean nothing whatsoever.
"Didn't play the big points good enough," Williams said. "I didn't do what I do best."
Instead, Williams was passive in crunch time and essentially let Lisicki do what she does best: dictate points quickly with big serves, powerful returns and pinpoint groundstrokes. If that sounds familiar, could be because it's the formula Williams uses to dominate her sport. Except on this breezy afternoon, Lisicki compiled a 10-7 edge in aces, a 35-25 lead in winners, and broke Williams five times.
Two days before facing Williams, Lisicki insisted she did not consider it an impossible task.
"You have to play your best to beat her, that's for sure," Lisicki said Saturday, after advancing to the fourth round, "but, you know, everybody's (a) human being."
Her play was as confident as her words, especially at the outset Monday, when Lisicki won five games in a row, and the finish.
The German's game is built for grass. Merely 16-15 at the other three Grand Slam tournaments, Lisicki is 17-4 at the All England Club. She reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2011, and is into her fourth quarterfinal, coincidentally beating the reigning French Open champion every time: Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009, Li Na in 2011, Maria Sharapova in 2012, and Williams in 2013.
"Good omen," Lisicki said.
"Obviously," she said, "I went into the match feeling that I could win."
Not many others felt that way. After all, Williams owns 16 major championships, and entering Monday, the 31-year-old American had won 46 of 48 matches this season, and 77 of 80 since the start of Wimbledon in 2012.
"You cannot be perfect, every match, all year," said Patrick Mouratoglou, the French coach who began working with Williams last year. "She won 34 matches in a row. It has to stop one day. It has to happen. And it happened today."
Only one day into the tournament's second week, Williams joined quite a list of those already out: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Victoria Azarenka and Sharapova — all major title winners, all former No. 1s, all gone by the end of Day 3.
"This," summed up 17th-seeded Sloane Stephens, "has been a crazy Wimbledon."
Sure has. No U.S. men reached the third round, something that last happened 101 years ago, and Williams' departure made Stephens the lone American singles player left. The 20-year-old Stephens' first quarterfinal at the All England Club was to come Tuesday against No. 15 Marion Bartoli of France, the 2007 runner-up.
The other matchup on their half of the draw was No. 8 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, against No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium. Tuesday's remaining quarterfinals: No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who lost to Williams in last year's final, against No. 6 Li of China; and Lisicki against 46th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
Kanepi reached her fifth Grand Slam quarterfinal, and second at Wimbledon, with a 7-6 (6), 7-5 victory over 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman in the fourth round at the All England Club since 1998. Robson, like others, took note of Monday's most significant outcome.
"I thought for sure Serena was going to win the tournament," Robson said, expressing a popular sentiment.
On Wednesday, the men's quarterfinals on the draw's top half are No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, a six-time Grand Slam titlist and the only remaining past Wimbledon winner, against No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, the 2010 runner-up; and No. 4 David Ferrer of Spain against No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, the 2009 U.S. Open champion. On the bottom half, it will be No. 2 Andy Murray of Britain, the London Olympic gold medalist and 2012 U.S. Open winner, against 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain; and No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz against his Davis Cup teammate and pal, 130th-ranked Lukasz Kubot, in a match between the first two Polish men to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since 1980.
One will give the country its first male semifinalist at a major tournament.
"We hugged. We are happy," Janowicz said. "Magical."
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