Li Na upset; Serena Williams advances
WIMBLEDON, England -- French Open champion Li Na squandered two match points and lost 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 on Thursday to wild card Sabine Lisicki in the second round of Wimbledon, the biggest upset of the tournament so far.
The 62nd-ranked Lisicki erased both match points with service winners in the ninth game of the third set and beat the third-seeded Chinese player under the roof on Centre Court.
After Li hit a forehand long on Lisicki's third match point, the 21-year-old German fell to her knees at the baseline and put her head to the turf. She broke into tears at her courtside chair.
"My emotions are so, I mean, just over the moon," said Lisicki, who served 17 aces and had 32 winners. "It's just amazing."
Li was up 4-2 in the third set and twice served for the match but was broken each time. She had won 14 of her previous 15 Grand Slam matches in 2011, reaching the final at the Australian Open and then becoming China's first major singles champion at Roland Garros last month.
"Tough match," Li said. "But I think both players today played great. Nothing wrong, just unlucky. I have two match points. But I can do nothing for these two match points."
Lisicki has won 12 of her last 13 matches on grass, including reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2009 and winning a tune-up tournament in Birmingham this month. She missed five months last season with a left ankle injury, and she fell out of the top 200 in the rankings.
"So it just means so much to me, you know, winning the title in Birmingham and getting the wild card here," she said. "I appreciate it so much, to be back in Wimbledon. It's just a place that I love so much."
At 5-3 down in the third, Lisicki fell behind 15-40 on her serve and faced two match points. She came up with two service winners at more than 120 mph and two straight aces -- including a 124 mph delivery, the fastest by any woman at Wimbledon this week.
"I was just fighting and I wanted to stay longer out there," Lisicki said. "The crowd was cheering. I didn't know it could get so loud in there."
Li served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 but couldn't convert.
"Start of the first point until the end of the match, every serve was like around 117 miles," Li said of Lisicki's serve. "I mean, this is impossible for the women."
Li reached the quarterfinals here in 2006 and 2010. Her landmark victory in Paris last month was watched by a reported 116 million people in China.
After dropping the first set, Williams regained her renowned intensity and powerful shot-making to dominate the rest of the way on Court 2. The winner of 13 Grand Slam singles titles is still searching for her form after a yearlong absence because of injuries and health issues.
There were no tears this time from Williams, who sobbed with relief Monday after winning her opening match on Centre Court against Aravane Rezai.
"I'm just happy to be playing and hopefully I'll get better as the tournament goes on," Williams said. "It was a little windy out there and I just was a little tight, so I just got to relax and enjoy myself more."
From 4-2 in the second set, the seventh-seeded American won eight out of the last nine games to re-establish her supremacy on the grass at the All England Club, pumping a clenched fist and shouting "Come on!" after smacking key winners.
It was the fourth consecutive three-setter Williams has played since returning last week at the Eastbourne grass-court tournament. She had been out for nearly a year after two foot operations and blood clots in her lungs.
"I guess I just want to play longer matches because I can get more practice," she said.
As usual, Williams used her big serve to control the match. She had seven aces, won 88 percent of points on her first serve and smacked a 114 mph service winner to end the match.
Williams finished with 34 winners and 19 unforced errors, nine in the first set.
The 19-year-old Halep, making her Wimbledon debut, came out firing from the start and wasn't awed or intimidated by the occasion or her famous opponent.
With Williams spraying unforced errors, Halep played solidly and moved out to leads of 4-1 and 5-2. The Romanian tumbled awkwardly on the baseline in the seventh game, and received treatment on her left leg during the changeover. She came out and held serve, with Williams yanking a backhand wide on set point.
Williams lifted her game in the second set and won the first three games to take command. She displayed her emotions in the fifth game when, after wrong-footing Halep with a forehand winner, shrieked "Come on!" and crouched down with her fist clenched.
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On set point, after a long, hard-hitting baseline rally, Williams smacked a running forehand that clipped the netcord and dropped over for a winner. Again, she clenched her fist and said "Yes!" before holding up her hand and saying "Sorry" in keeping with tennis etiquette.
Williams went ahead 5-0 in the third set but squandered three set points before serving out the match in the seventh game.
Also advancing were sixth-seeded Francesca Schiavone, who defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 7-5, 6-3; No. 12 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania 6-0, 6-2; and 18th-seeded and former No. 1-ranked Ana Ivanovic, a 6-3, 6-0 winner over Eleni Daniilidou.
No. 16 Julia Goerges, No. 19 Yanina Wickmayer, No. 24 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 26 Maria Kirilenko and No. 27 Jarmila Gajdosova also advanced, while No. 13 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 14 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 31 Lucie Safarova were upset.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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