Wimbledon 2013: It's Christmas for Serena Williams as major rivals Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka make early exit


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The Independent Online

Serena Williams must think it's Christmas. Already favourite to win a sixth Wimbledon singles crown, her odds tumbled dramatically after a day of carnage, which saw third seed Maria Sharapova top the list of casualties, albeit on foot, if only just.

Sharapova's demise on Court No 2, an inhospitable host that retains the old graveyard status despite being re-sited on the far southwest part of the grounds, followed the earlier withdrawal though injury of second seed Victoria Azarenka, one of seven victims to suffer enforced absence.

If that were not helpful enough, former world no.1 and ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki, admittedly not the threat she has been, perished on the same No 2 court in front of beau Rory McIlroy. Love conquered nothing.

Sharapova required treatment of court after a heavy fall during the second set and fought like a beast to stay in the tournament on her return, saving four match points before falling to Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito 3-6, 4-6.

“I give her a lot of credit. She played well today. I just wasn't there,” said Sharapova, who refused to make an excuse of the conditions, though she made it clear the slippery surface was unhelpful. “Those are the conditions that are there for my opponent as well. I just took a lot more falls. She was solid and didn't make many mistakes.”

De Brito described the result as the best of her career. “A little bit of shock but really excited,” said de Brito. “It feels amazing. I can't believe it. I just went for it, gave it may all. To be in the third round is just unbelievable. To get through qualies was amazing, and now I'm in the third round.” 

De Brito acknowledged the court was tricky. “She fell pretty hard. These grass courts can be slippery and quite dangerous. There was a lot of dead grass on the top which makes it quite slippery, a tough court to play on.”

Wozniacki slipped heavily during the fourth game of the first set against Petra Cetkovska and never recovered. She immediately called for the trainer and received treatment at courtside, where her left ankle was strapped.

Wozniacki was clearly suffering when play resumed and quickly surrendered the point that gave Cetkovska a 3-1 lead. At 5-2 the trainer returned to reapply the tape, but could not alter the course of the set or the match, which she lost 6-2, 6-2.

“I don't know if I was unlucky,”Wozniacki said. “I definitely slipped straight on, which I wasn't expecting. Normally on the grass you can expect to slide but not really when you have a full grip underneath with your shoes. You should be able to stand comfortably. Once you slip you can't run down balls like before. ”

Azarenka's late withdrawal forced a hasty rescheduling on Centre Court at the start of play, with former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic and Genie Bouchard switching from Court 12. Bouchard rose to the new setting to record a straight sets victory, 6-3, 6-3.