Such are the shrieks that accompany her every shot Maria Sharapova's matches sound as if someone is being tortured. Such is her ability someone usually is. Yesterday it was Su-Wei Hsieh, the world No. 63 from Taiwan whose game was brutally taken apart in the opening set on No 1 court.
Sharapova took that 6-1 in 31 minutes, securing the set with a rasping cross-court forehand winner that seemed to sum up her supremacy. But then, troubled by a gusty wind, the No.1 seed was broken early in the second set and thereafter had to scrap her way back into the match from 4-2 down before winning four straight games to go through 6-1, 6-4.
“I faced her many times in the juniors and she was a nightmare on clay,” said Sharapova of her Hsieh, “but on grass she didn't have the time to create those drop shots and slices that get people crazy. There's room for improvement in my game but I feel I'm getting better as I face more challenging opponents. That's the goal.”
The French Open champion will now play No.15 seed Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round, a repeat of the semi-final she won 6-3, 6-4 last year. In the second round Lisicki complained to the umpire about the noise being made by her opponent Bojana Jovanovski. “It put me off. That's why I complained,” said the German. “It was better afterwards.” Will she have the confidence to ask an umpire to tell Sharapova to tone it down? “I'll focus on myself. We'll see what happens.” Sharapova, when asked how she would react, replied icily: “I've not been in that situation. When I have been I'll tell you about it.”
Lisicki set up the encounter by beating promising young American Sloane Stephens, but it was not without alarm. Lisicki needed nearly two hours to edge out Stephens and cold easily have lost. She recovered from 5-2 down in the first set tie-break to take the first set 7-6, but was then rolled over 6-1 in the second set. Lisicki put this embarrassment behind her to break Stephens early in the third and held on to each the quarter-final for the second year in succession.
Both will be aware that floating dangerously in the same half of the draw is Kim Clijsters, the former World No.1 now ranked 47th after an injury-racked year. She moved into the fourth round after 12th-seeded Vera Zvonareva, who beat her in the 2010 Wimbledon semi-final, retired, but Clijsters was leading 6-3, 4-3 when the Russian quit after losing a service game to love. Zvonareva had earlier taken a medical time-out and Clijsters said: “I think she was having difficulties breathing. I heard her cough a couple of times and it didn't sound good. It's unfortunate. I saw after long rallies it took her a little while to recover.”
Elsewhere China's Shuai Peng, No.30 seed, dropped three games in brushing aside Arantxa Rus, Samantha Stosur's conqueror while 8th-seed Germany's Angelica Kerber progressed in straight sets against Christina McHale, of the US, 6-2, 6-3.
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