LONDON : Former champion Maria Sharapova saved six match points before falling to Angelique Kerber in the fourth round at Wimbledon ending her bid to win a second title at the All England Club a decade after her first.
Five-time champion Serena Williams, meanwhile, struggled to even hit the ball over the net in a doubles match with sister Venus and pulled out after only three games with what officials called a viral illness.
Sharapova, a five-time major champion, saved one match point at 5-2 down in the third set and five more in the final game before hitting a backhand long on the seventh.That gave the ninth-seeded Kerber a stirring 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4 win on Centre Court in a match that lasted 2 hours, 37 minutes.
"It's unbelievable," said the German, a semifinalist two years ago. "It was so tough (a) match. Every single set was so close. Maria's a great player. I was just fighting, concentrating and focusing on myself. I'm so happy to be in the quarters now." Kerber will next face 20-year-old Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard, the only woman to reach the semifinals this year at both the Australian Open and French Open. Bouchard beat Kerber in the fourth round at the French.
Sharapova, who won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17, was coming off her latest major championship at the French Open last month. "It's absolutely normal for people to have high expectations of me doing well in Grand Slam stages," Sharapova said. "I certainly do, as well. Today could have gone either way, and it didn't go my way."
On a day when seven-time men's champion Roger Federer sailed into the quarterfinals, Serena was out of sorts from the moment the pre-match warmup began. She had trouble collecting tennis balls from the ball kids and missed completely on some practice strokes. The start of the second-round doubles against Kristina Barrois and Stefanie Voegele was put off for about 10 minutes while Serena sat in her chair and was examined by medical staff.
In the third game, Serena hit four double-faults. She hit serves that bounced before reaching the net. Umpire Kader Nouni climbed down from his chair and walked over to speak to Serena. The sisters walked to the sideline holding hands, and the match was stopped. Serena wiped away tears as she left the court.
The Wimbledon referee's office and WTA said Serena had a viral illness. She left the grounds a few hours later in a tournament car with Venus. While Sharapova sought to dictate play with her big-swinging groundstrokes, Kerber played counter-attacking tennis and went for her shots when the opportunities came.
The match featured high tension and intensity. Sharapova's shrieks grew louder and louder as the match wore on. Kerber went up 4-1 and saved two break points to lead 5-2 in the final set. She held a match point on Sharapova's serve, but the Russian hit a deep backhand that she couldn't handle.
With Kerber serving for the match in the next game, Sharapova broke for 5-4. Then Kerber went up 0-40 on Sharapova's serve, but the Russian erased those three match points. Two more came and went. Sharapova twice earned game points but couldn't convert. Finally, on the sixth match point of the game, it ended with Sharapova's backhand error.
Federer kept up his bid for a record eighth Wimbledon title by beating Tommy Robredo to reach the quarterfinals for the 12th time. Federer, who has not dropped a set in the tournament, overwhelmed the Spaniard 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 in just over 90 minutes. "All the things are happening that need to be happening to go deep in this tournament again," he said.
Federer's win set up an all-Swiss duel with Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who beat Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-3 to make it to the quarterfinals for the first time. Eighth-seeded Milos Raonic became the first Canadian man to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since Robert Powell in 1912, beating No. 10 Kei Nishikori of Japan 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) 6-3.
The first woman into the semifinals was No. 23 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, who beat Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, 6-3 6-1. French Open runner-up Simona Halep breezed into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. Her next opponent will be 2013 finalist Sabine Lisicki of Germany, who overcame shoulder trouble to defeat Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.