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LONDON: German wildcard Sabine Lisicki added another gripping chapter to her remarkable Wimbledon story when she recovered from wasting three match points to beat Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1 under the Centre Court roof in an enthralling quarterfinal on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old, out of action for five months last year with a horrific ankle injury, became the second wildcard to reach the Wimbledon semis after China's Jie Zheng in 2008 and the first German to do so since Steffi Graf in 1999.
Later, former champion Maria Sharapova stormed into the semifinals for the first time since 2006, blasting aside Dominika Cibulkova with an emphatic 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal victory.
Playing to a backdrop of thunder and lightning with rain hammering down on the closed roof so loud that it drowned out the sound of ball on racket, it was a dramatic occasion.
Both Lisicki and Bartoli exchanged ferociously powerful groundstrokes and mixed in crowd-pleasing drop-shots in a high-quality encounter.
Lisicki, who beat Roland Garros champion Li Na in the second round, was on top from the start and won the first set convincingly.
The ninth-seeded Bartoli broke in the fourth game of the second set but Lisicki, helped by two outrageous drop shots, broke straight back. Lisicki broke again and served for victory at 5-4 but she was far too tentative and Bartoli saved them all.
In a remarkable tiebreak, 10 of the 11 points went against serve, and Bartoli took it 7-4.
Lisicki kept her mind and body under control and quickly broke to lead 2-0 in the third.
Bartoli, dripping with sweat in the humid conditions, gradually began to wilt and Lisicki ruthlessly rammed home her advantage to complete victory in two hours 21 minutes.
“I was very disappointed with myself when I played at 5-4 I missed easily, I wasn't really decided to go for it,” she said in a televised interview. “But I felt I was the better player today and I knew I just had to focus and fight again in the third set to win it.
“I really can't explain how I feel. I was just such a tough route back (from injury) and it's so wonderful to be standing on Centre Court which I love so much. I did a very good job to get here, I'm getting better with each match and I have absolutely nothing to lose.”
Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova secured a place in the semifinals for the second successive year with a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 win over Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova.
Kvitova, who could become the first left-hander to win the women's title since Martina Navratilova in 1990, had dropped just 15 games in her first four matches and spent an average of just 56 minutes on court.
Pironkova, a semifinalist last year, pushed Kvitova much harder than that but the 32nd seed still ended up suffering the same fate as her previous four opponents.
“I am so happy to be in the semifinal. I made some mistakes in the second set and was a bit down mentally,” said Kvitova. “It's great to be back in the semifinal and now I have more experience of the Centre Court.”
Federer, Nadal through
On Monday, six-time champion Roger Federer recovered from losing the first set to move into the quarterfinals with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
For a spot in the semifinals, Federer plays 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who had gone through earlier on Monday.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal overcame a major injury scare, which pushed him to the brink of pulling out of his fourth-round match, to beat Juan Martin del Potro 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.
The World No.1 needed a lengthy medical time-out at 6-6 in the first set to have his left foot bandaged.
Although Nadal went on to beat del Potro in four sets after the injury scare, the Spaniard admitted he was close to quitting.
“I don't know what the problem is, it seems to be a problem with the bone in the foot,” said top seed Nadal. “I thought I would have to retire at the end of the first set because there was a lot of pain. But the tape changed the situation.”
However, tests on Tuesday revealed that all was well with Nadal. He announced that he would be fit to play his quarterfinal against Fish after a scan revealed he had not suffered a serious left foot injury.
“Yesterday, after the match I went to take an MRI at a London hospital,” he said.
“During the match I thought I had something serious. But as the match went on the pain got better and thankfully the tests don't show an injury.
In the quarterfinals, Nadal plays 10th seed Mardy Fish who kept the American flag flying high with a superb win over sixth seed and last year's runner-up Tomas Berdych.
In women's doubles, Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina reached the quarterfinals after registering a straight-set victory over Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Polish Agnieszka Radwanska.
The fourth seeded Indo-Russian pair beat the 13th seeds 6-4, 6-3 in the third round of the women's doubles here.
They will now take on Llagostera Vives and Parra Santonja of Spain in the quarterfinals. Vives and Santonja defeated Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci of Italy 7-5, 6-4 in another third round match.
Sania's partner Vesnina has more reasons to smile as she and Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi, seeded fourth, beat Australians Stephen Huss and Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 7-6(3) to reach the third round. — Agencies
Women: Quarterfinals: 8-Petra Kvitova (Cze) bt 32-Tsvetana Pironkova (Bul) 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2; Sabine Lisicki (Ger) bt 9-Marion Bartoli (Fra) 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1; 5-Maria Sharapova (Rus) bt 24-Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) 6-1, 6-1.
Doubles: Third round: 4-Sania Mirza (Ind) & Elena Vesnina (Rus) bt 13-Daniela Hantuchova (Svk) & Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) 6-4, 6-3.
Men: Fourth round: 1-Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt 24-Juan Martin del Potro (Arg) 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4; 12-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) bt 7-David Ferrer (Esp) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(1); 3-Roger Federer (Sui) bt 18-Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Doubles: Second round: 6-Nenad Zimonjic (Srb) & Michael Llodra (Fra) bt Somdev Devvarman (Ind) & Kei Nishikori (Jpn) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(5).
Mixed doubles: Second round: 4-Mahesh Bhupathi (Ind) & Elena Vesnina (Rus) bt Stephen Huss & Anastasia Rodionova (Aus) 6-2, 7-6(3) .
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