Wimbledon, June 28: Maria Sharapova looked like a champion under the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon, advancing to the semifinals at the All England Club for the first time since 2006 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday.
Sharapova, the only Wimbledon champion remaining in the women's draw after the Williams sisters were eliminated a day earlier, won eight straight games to win the first set and take control of the second.
The fifth-seeded Russian has not lost a set at this year's tournament, and she was nowhere near losing one Tuesday.
“It's been a few years since I got past the fourth round, and now I'm in the semifinals,” said Sharapova, who won the tournament in 2004 and also reached the semifinals in ‘05. “So this a great chance for me to take it a step further.”
Sharapova will next face German wild-card entry Sabine Lisicki. She reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by beating 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1 on another wet day at Wimbledon.
“This is a player that's playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now and playing really great grass-court tennis, so it'll be a really tough match but I certainly look forward to it,” Sharapova said.
Cibulkova held serve in the first game against Sharapova, but couldn't hold another. The only hiccup in the match for Sharapova came in the third game of the second set when Cibulkova broke.
Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at the All England Club when she was only 17. She added the U.S. Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open title in 2008, but has not won another since—mainly due to shoulder problems.
“Well, to be in the semis of Wimbledon is a bonus,” said Sharapova, who finished with 23 winners and five aces. “To be able to come back and play tennis after a big injury—I was just quite happy to be back on the court. So to achieve this is wonderful. But the tournament isn't over.”
But with the Williams sisters, who have combined to win nine of the last 11 Wimbledon titles, both losing in the fourth round, Sharapova may be the one with the experience needed to win.
With heavy rain causing a racket as it pelted down on the retractable white cover over the court, Lisicki used drop shots to perfection in the first two sets, becoming only the second wild-card entry to reach the women's semifinals at the All England Club.
“I cannot explain how I feel at the moment,” said Lisicki, the first German Grand Slam semifinalist since Steffi Graf in 1999. “It was just such a tough road back and it's so wonderful to be standing on Centre Court in Wimbledon which I love so much. I'm just so happy.”
Lisicki served for the match at 5-4 in the second and held three match points, but Bartoli saved them all. On the second, Lisicki went to her go-to drop shot but put it into the net.
Bartoli eventually broke back—when Lisicki double-faulted for the first time—and then won the tiebreaker.
“I was very disappointed with myself how I played at 5-4, that game, because I missed easily,” said Lisicki, who has won 15 of her last 16 matches on grass and eliminated French Open champion Li Na in the second round. “I felt that I was the better player today and I knew I just had to focus and fight again in the third set to win it.”
In the third set, Lisicki broke to take a 3-0 lead, and then again to make it 5-1. She won when the tiring Bartoli put a forehand into the net.
“My mind was trying extremely hard, but just my body couldn't do anything anymore,” said Bartoli, who beat four-time champion Serena Williams in the fourth round. “I still fought very hard, especially in that second set. ... I have no regrets.”
Lisicki, who finished the match with 52 winners to Bartoli's 12, reached the quarterfinals at the All England Club two years ago but lost to Dinara Safina.
Lisicki survived a scare early in the match, but it had nothing to do with tennis or even her opponent. After serving at 30-15 in the second game of the match, Lisicki shuddered when a loud blast of thunder rang out overhead.
She then lost the next two points and eventually the game, but recovered and broke for the second time in three games to take a 2-1 lead.
Lisicki is now 3-1 against Bartoli. Her only loss came in the first round at Wimbledon in 2008, a year after Bartoli reached the final at the All England Club but lost to Venus Williams.
The rain briefly delayed the start of play as the roof was closed. The match on Court 1 between No. 8 Petra Kvitova and Tsvetana Pironkova started about 2½ hours late. The second match was to pit Tamira Paszek against fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka.
Earlier Tuesday, Rafael Nadal said his left foot, which he injured during Monday's fourth-round win over Juan Martin del Potro, is not seriously injured and he will play in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
“Yesterday after the match I went to take an MRI at a London hospital,” Nadal said in a statement. “During the match I thought I had something serious but as the match went through the pain got better and thankfully the tests don't show an injury.”
Nadal is scheduled to play Mardy Fish in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
“Today I will practice at 4:30 p.m. and I'll play tomorrow,” Nadal said.
Nadal, a two-time champion at the All England Club, hurt his foot in the first set of Monday's win over del Potro. He twice called for a trainer during the set, but still managed to win 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Nadal is 30-2 at Wimbledon since the start of the 2006 tournament. He lost to Roger Federer that year and the next in the final, but then beat the Swiss in the 2008 championship match. Nadal was unable to defend his title in 2009 because of injury, but he won again in 2010.
Also Tuesday, U.S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy paid a visit to Wimbledon, meeting Andy Murray and John McEnroe.