WIMBLEDON, England — Wimbledon is guaranteed to produce a first-time Grand Slam women’s champion after the remaining two major winners lost in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens upset 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, while No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska knocked out 2011 French Open champion Li Na 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2. Also Tuesday, No. 15 Marion Bartoli beat the last U.S. hope, No. 17 Sloane Stephens, 6-4, 7-5, and No. 23 Sabine Lisicki ousted unseeded Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3.
Here’s a breakdown of each quarterfinal:
Flipkens nearly flawless
No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens d. No. 8 Petra Kvitova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4: Flipkens, 27, is the feel-good story of the tournament. In April 2012, Flipkens was diagnosed with blood clots in her calf, an injury that led to a big drop in the rankings, to No. 262. When she returned, her ranking couldn’t even get her into Wimbledon qualifying. A year later, she’s ticking off a number of “firsts,” including breaking into the top 20 and making her first Slam semifinal, at Wimbledon, where she was the junior champion a decade ago.
The Belgian veteran showed tremendous nerve to stand toe-to-toe with Kvitova. Flipkens didn’t drop her serve in the final two sets, playing an impossibly clean match that frustrated Kvitova, who was unable to practice Tuesday morning because of a virus that left her dizzy and fatigued. (Kvitova received treatment during the match.)
How’s this for a stat line: Flipkens had 23 winners, including seven aces, and committed only five unforced errors while withstanding Kvitova’s barrage of 41 winners (against 28 unforced errors). On match point, Flipkens fired an ace (her second of the game) wide that landed right in the corner. Chalk really did fly up.
“Of course I had nothing to lose today,” Flipkens said. “But still you have to do it.”
That’s the thing about the surprising semifinalists: Regardless of the talk about the opportunities and the open draw, every single one of them still had to go out there and win the match. Kvitova gave her a little bit of help, but Flipkens never blinked behind those Oakley goggles. That was some performance.
Good friend Kim Clijsters, who has worked with Flipkens this year, tweeted her congratulations:
Flipkens will face Bartoli in the semifinals.
Bartoli breaks Stephens
No. 15 Marion Bartoli d. No. 17 Sloane Stephens 6-4, 7-5: This one won’t make the DVD of the most memorable Wimbledon matches. The players traded eighth consecutive service breaks in the second set, and Stephens won a total of one point in her first four service games of the second. (The 20-year-old American won 5-of-26 points on serve for the set.) With Stephens serving to stay in the match at 5-6, Bartoli broke her at love — the match couldn’t end any other way — to book her spot into the semifinals for the first time since making the Wimbledon final in 2007.
Stephens seemed put off by Bartoli’s insistence that officials suspend play with Stephens serving at 5-6, deuce in the first set. When the players returned after a 2½-hour rain delay, Bartoli won two straight points to take the set. Stephens never recovered.
“It would have been nice to finish that game,” Stephens said. “Coming back and serving at deuce, that’s always going to be tough for anyone.”
She didn’t explicitly call out Bartoli for gamesmanship, but she left open the possibility that the wily veteran may have iced her on purpose.
“I don’t know,” Stephens said. “Who knows?”
Radwanska solves Li
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska d. No. 6 Li Na 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-2: The most highly anticipated match of the day lived up to the billing, with Radwanska moving one step closer to returning to the final for the second year in a row. Li was left to ponder how it all got away from her.
After breaking Radwanska for a 5-4 lead in the first set, Li earned four set points on her serve, one of which was an ace out wide that was called out. Li questioned the call but chose not to invoke Hawk-Eye, and the television replays showed it was good. In the tiebreaker, Li led 5-3 before dropping four consecutive points to lose the set.
In a match that pitted big hitting versus craftiness, it was Radwanska’s ability to absorb and redirect Li’s power and force her to hit extra shot after extra shot that prevailed. Radwanska was steady when she needed to be, and Li’s erratic patches finally got the best of her. Li was able to level the match by winning the final four games of the second set, but she was broken immediately in the third and fell behind 0-2. After a rain delay that prompted the Centre Court roof to close, Radwanska rolled through the rest of the set and finally converted her eighth match point in a 10-minute final game.
The most surprising stat of the match was Li’s push to finish points at the net. She went in 71 times and converted 66 percent. Though Li’s approach shots were often poor and gave Radwanska plenty of time to conjure up a worthy pass, she was proud of her effort and is looking forward to bringing the same kind of aggression to the North American hard-court season.
“I think maybe today I came to the net much more than my whole life,” she said, laughing. “It’s not bad really. I mean, first time I was feeling, ‘Oh, I really can come to the net.’ Before I was thinking, ‘No, no, this not my style. I have to stay on the baseline.’”
As for Radwanska, it was sublime performance full of her typical guts and guile. She handled Li’s pace down the line with ease, and after taking a medical timeout between the second and third set for a thigh issue, she wisely picked her moments to be the aggressor and shorten the points.
Lisicki letdown? Nope
No. 23 Sabine Lisicki d. Kaia Kanepi, 6-3, 6-3: One tournament storyline has been the inability of players who pull off the big upset to follow it up. Steve Darcis knocked out Rafael Nadal in the first round, but he withdrew before his next match because of a shoulder injury. Sergiy Stakhovsky handed Roger Federer his first loss in the second round of a major, but he fell meekly in the next round. Michelle Larcher de Brito thoroughly outplayed Maria Sharapova in the second round, but she fell to a player ranked No. 104 in the third round.
Lisicki had no such trouble, though. Don’t let the smile, tears and over-the-moon vibe fool you. Lisicki didn’t surprise herself with her three-set win over No. 1 and defending champion Serena Williams on Monday, nor is she overawed by making this late stage of the tournament. The 23-year-old German has a quiet confidence and believes she should have been making these deep runs throughout her career.
She was focused Tuesday in dispatching the unseeded Kanepi, who fell to 0-5 in Slam quarterfinals. Lisicki broke Kanepi in the first game of the match, and after being broken early in the second set following a flurry of double faults, Lisicki broke right back and won four of the final five games.
Lisicki, who has reached the semifinals for the second time in three years, will face Radwanska on Thursday in a match that epitomizes the two ways to dominate on grass. Lisicki represents the modern power game, Radwanska the all-court caginess that we thought almost died out when Martina Hingis hung up her racket. Should be a good one.