LONDON (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova has had better days, Roger Federer more mobile ones and local sun-hat sellers more profitable ones as Wimbledon’s manic Monday turned into a bit of a damp squib after several days of nerve-shredding drama.
Beaten comfortably by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, top seed Sharapova’s dream of a French Open/Wimbledon double ended in tatters under miserable grey skies and her world No.1 ranking looks almost certain to follow.
At least Federer is still standing, although for a while against erratic Belgian Xavier Malisse that seemed an effort in itself for the six-times champion.
Struggling with a bad back in chilly conditions on Centre Court, the king of cool needed two undignified injury time-outs during a 7-6 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory that continued his remarkable run of grand slam quarter-final appearances.
He remained on course for a semi-final against defending champion Novak Djokovic who thrashed fellow Serb Viktor Troicki 6-3 6-1 6-3.
The pigeons were again looking nervously about after the safe return of Rufus, the club’s harrier hawk employed to scare them away who was stolen last week.
Feathers fluttering down from the Centre Court roof during second seed Victoria Azarenka’s 6-1 6-0 win over Ana Ivanovic may have been proof that Rufus, who resumes work on Tuesday, had been missed.
While the women’s quarter-final line-up is complete, five men’s fourth-round matches were unfinished due to persistent rain in south west London.
Home favourite Andy Murray must try to finish off Marin Cilic on Tuesday after taking a one-set lead and fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will resume a set down against Mardy Fish.
Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova also beat the rain to set up a juicy last-eight clash in the women’s singles.
Williams, seeking a fifth Wimbledon singles title to equal the total of her sister Venus, scrambled through to the quarter-finals for the 10th time with a 6-1 2-6 7-5 win over powerful Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova.
Stretched to the limit, the 30-year-old Williams produced a sensational backhand top-spin lob from deep in the corner at 6-5, 30-30 in the second set and sealed victory with a pummelled winner before letting out a fearsome roar.
“I don’t know if that was luck, per se, but it was definitely - unintentional I think is a better word,” Williams said of the contender for shot of the tournament.
Sharapova gave a performance on Court One as grey as the weather in a 6-4 6-3 defeat by Lisicki who will face fellow German Angelique Kerber in the quarter-finals.
Kerber showed no sentiment in thrashing four-times grand slam champion Kim Clijsters 6-1 6-1 on what was the soon-to-retire Belgian’s final match at the championships.
“Wimbledon to me was like Disneyland to another child. So it was such a beautiful thing,” said popular Belgian Clijsters who will get one more shot at glory on the grasscourts at the Olympic Games later this month.
The toil of winning the French Open for the first time seemed to catch up with Sharapova against Lisicki.
“You always try to find ways to get into it, even if you feel your level is just not there,” Sharapova said. “Maybe you’re just a little slow, you try to pump yourself up.”
“She did many things much better than me today.”
Asked about the possible imminent loss of her top ranking to Azarenka, or even Agnieszka Radwanska who beat Camila Giorgi to reach the last eight, Sharapova said: “Obviously what I achieved a few weeks ago doesn’t just go away in a few minutes. I’ll have that for the rest of my career.”
The sight of Federer lumbering around the court with a stiff back would have been quite enlightening for the mere mortals who marvel at the Swiss’s graceful movements.
He seemed ill at ease in establishing a 4-3 lead against Malisse, at which point he left the court for eight minutes to have treatment on his lower back.
When he returned his serves were half-paced and he was walking gingerly between points. However, when Malisse served for the set at 6-5 Federer conjured some magic to get himself out of trouble before dominating the tiebreak.
After a rain stoppage, and further treatment at the end of the third set, Federer found some fluency to set up a quarter-final against Mikhail Youzhny, the only other man to finish a singles match on Monday.
“Honestly I‘m not too worried,” said Federer who is chasing a record-equalling seventh title. “I’ve had bad backs over the years. They go as quick as they come.”
Editing by Ed Osmond