England: Maria Sharapova was gracious and upbeat in defeat,
perhaps because she has had a fair amount of experience this year with
such one-sided losses.
Still seeking her first title in 2007, Sharapova lost Wednesday in the
fourth round at Wimbledon to Venus Williams, 6-1, 6-3. It was the
Russian's earliest exit at the All England Club since she won the
tournament at age 17 in 2004.
"It's always special being on Centre Court, knowing I've held that
plate before when I was young," said Sharapova, now a sage veteran of
20. "I definitely know I have it in me. I have so many years ahead of
me. I'll be back, and I'll be stronger, and I'll win it again."
First she must regain her championship form, and eliminate a yearlong
tendency to play poorly in big matches. She won only three games
against Serena Williams in the Australian Open final, won two games
against Serena in a rematch at Key Biscayne, Florida, and won three
games against Ana Ivanovic in the French Open semifinals.
In short, the year has been a disappointing sequel for the 2006 U.S.
Sharapova has struggled with her serve, in part because of a nagging
shoulder injury. She plans to undergo scans on the shoulder as a
precaution and said she didn't know when she'll be fully healed.
"I've been able to play my matches almost without pain," Sharapova
said. "It'll be important the next few weeks before the hard court
season that I do a lot of strength work and keep doing the treatment.
"It's getting better. Next time I'll be on court, better watch out."
Also leaving the tournament ailing was two-time champion Serena
Williams, who considered pulling out of her quarterfinal match against
top-ranked Justine Henin, decided to play and lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Williams played despite a strained left calf and sprained left thumb,
both heavily wrapped.
"Definitely not 100 percent," she said. "It was probably at 40 or 50,
Both of her injuries occurred during a dramatic match Monday against
Daniela Hantuchova, when Williams hobbled to victory. Her father and
coach, Richard, said he and a doctor advised her against playing again
because she was risking further injury.
"It was really a last-minute decision to go out," Serena said. "I
would have felt bad if I didn't at least try. I mean this is the
quarterfinals of Wimbledon. You can't give up."
Williams did pull out of doubles, where she and sister Venus had won
their first-round match. That leaves Venus in singles to represent the
family. The three-time champion outserved Sharapova in her best
performance this year.
"I kept fighting," Sharapova said. "You always hope for a little door
to open, and you try to sneak in. Today I couldn't find an opening."
With the schedule in disarray because of rain on eight of the first
nine days, four of the remaining six women were to play quarterfinal
matches Thursday, with Williams facing Svetlana Kuznetsova, and
Ivanovic playing fellow teenager Nicole Vaidisova.
In the semifinals Friday, Henin will face No. 18 Marion Bartoli, who
beat Michaella Krajicek 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
All 12 remaining men were scheduled to play Thursday, including
four-time defending champion Roger Federer, idle since Friday after
his fourth-round opponent withdrew. He was to face Juan Carlos Ferrero
in the quarterfinals.
Advancing Wednesday to the fourth round was three-time French Open
champion Rafael Nadal, who finished off Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-4, 6-7
(7), 4-6, 7-5 more than 90 hours after they first stepped on court.
The match was stopped because of rain six times.
Novak Djokovic also reached the fourth round in a match that took
three days. Andy Roddick advanced to the quarterfinals, saving three
set points in the final set to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 7-5, 7-6
(6). Roddick said he didn't know whether Federer's long layoff will be
a disadvantage for him.
"We've been stuck in a locker room for nine hours a day, and he's been
chilling out taking the double-decker bus tour, maybe," Roddick said.
"Given the choice, I'll take a living room over a locker room."