Sharapova falls in second round

Updated: June 24, 2009, 5:33 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- Growing desperate in the final game, Maria Sharapova scrambled to hit one shot left-handed. Twice she challenged calls but lost. Then she lost the match as well.

Sharapova won seven consecutive games during one stretch but let a late lead slip away Wednesday and was beaten by Gisela Dulko 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the second round at Wimbledon.

In a wild, 14-point final game, Sharapova saved four match points. But on the fifth she pushed an easy forehand long, and she was out of the tournament after two rounds for the second year in a row.

The 2004 champion was playing in her fourth event since rejoining the tour last month following shoulder surgery in October. She's ranked 60th but was seeded 24th because of past success at the All England Club.

Sharapova-Dulko stats

Maria Sharapova

Wimbledon champion in 2004, Maria Sharapova was eliminated in the second round for the second straight year.

Sharapova Dulko
First serve pct. 64 57
Aces 2 1
Double faults 9 5
Unforced errors 27 23
First serve win pct. 65 63
Second serve win pct. 38 49
Winners (incl. serve) 30 22
Receiving pts. won 43 of 100 36 of 81
Break pt. conversions 4 of 11 5 of 12
Net approaches 16 of 36 13 of 18
Total pts. won 88 93

"This is not an overnight process," Sharapova said. "It's going to take time, as much time as I need on the court, to get everything together. ... Just being here is a wonderful accomplishment."

Two-time champion Serena Williams, seeded second, sped into the third round by beating Jarmila Groth 6-2, 6-1. Williams committed only six unforced errors.

Dulko, ranked 45th, matched her best showing at Wimbledon by reaching the third round. She had won a total of only three games in two previous matches against Sharapova, but the Argentine repeatedly took charge of rallies by hitting drop shots, while Sharapova struggled with her serve and forehand.

"I had so many easy balls, and I just made unforced errors from those," Sharapova said. "When I've had those situations before, those balls would be pieces of cake, and today they weren't."

She and Dulko played the afternoon's first match on Centre Court in warm sunshine, and the new roof remained open for a third consecutive day. Dulko was almost flawless at the start, committing only four unforced errors in the first 11 games.

But with a 3-0 lead in the second set, she began spraying her shots, and Sharapova pulled even.

"It took me a while to get going," Sharapova said. "It's a little too late to start picking yourself up when you're down a set and 3-0."

Sharapova wobbled again in the third set, double-faulting to lose serve and trail 2-1. She double-faulted twice in a row and lost serve at love to fall behind to stay, 4-3.

With Dulko serving in the final game, Sharapova lost two challenges as the score reached 40-15. Always at her best under pressure, Sharapova hit a booming return and a feathery drop shot to overcome the first two match points, and her return winner erased another.

But with a point for 5-all, Sharapova pushed a backhand into the net before making errors on the final two points as well.

"I was very nervous in the end," Dulko said. "The last game was forever for me."

Sharapova fell to 6-1 this year in three-set matches. She finished with nine double faults and had at least one in every service game in the final set.

"Losses are tough, more here than at any other tournament," the three-time Grand Slam champion said. "But, you know, it puts some perspective into your life. It's all right. I have many more years ahead of me."

Dulko will next play Nadia Petrova of Russia, who cruised past Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 6-2.

Williams broke Groth twice in the first set and three more times in the second. She served out the match by converting her second match point when Groth returned a serve into the net.

Williams needed just 57 minutes for the win.

"For me there's always room for improvement," Williams said. "I could have returned better, came to the net a little bit more. That's exciting -- to think that I can do better."

Williams won the Wimbledon title in 2002 and '03 but lost last year's final to sister Venus.

"I should have won more than twice here, but I didn't," said Williams. "And hopefully I can rectify that this year."

The 10th-seeded Petrova broke the 55th-ranked Peer in the fourth game of the first set and never let the Israeli find her stride after that. Petrova hit 26 winners to Peer's 10 and broke her opponent twice in the second set, wrapping up the match when the Israeli sent a forehand long.

Last year's semifinalist Zheng Jie of China was eliminated, losing 6-3, 7-5 to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

The 16th-seeded Zheng broke in the first game of the match, but Hantuchova broke back twice and took the first set with a big cross-court forehand.

Zheng was a wild card in 2008 when she became the first Chinese player to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament, beating top-seeded Ana Ivanovic on the way.

She pushed Hantuchova hard in the second set as the pair traded breaks and then saved a match point before the Slovak wrapped it up with a deft forehand volley.

No. 8 Victoria Azarenka lost only six points in her six service games and shut out Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-0, 6-0. No. 14 Dominika Cibulkova and No. 26 Virginie Razzano also won.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.