Maria Sharapova suffered a shock exit from Wimbledon on Monday as Germany's Sabine Lisicki avenged last year's semi-final defeat with a 6-4, 6-3 fourth round victory over the world number one.
Sharapova had romped to a straight sets win over Lisicki in last year's semi-final at the All England Club, but the top seed was completely out-played by the 15th seed this time.
The 25-year-old has been a finalist in three of the last four Grand Slams and arrived at Wimbledon on a high after winning the French Open for the first time earlier this month.
But she came back down to earth with a bump on Court One as Lisicki, beaten in the first round in her four pre-Wimbledon tournaments, produced one of the best performances of her career.
Lisicki will play German eighth seed Angelique Kerber for a place in the last four, after Kerber beat Kim Clijsters – playing her last Wimbledon – in straight sets, 6-1 6-1.
Elsewhere sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer shook off a back injury to beat Xavier Malisse 7-6 6-1 4-6 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.
"It's just unbelievable. I'm so happy. I had lost the last three meetings with her, so it's nice to finally win one," Lisicki said.
"I just went for my shots out there. I felt great, it's my favourite tournament. I love the crowd and playing on grass.
"I'm fighter and I fight to the last game. I think I'm getting better with each match."
The warning signs had been there for Sharapova, who won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004, as she had not been at her dominant best in the first week.
She had to survive a hard-fought clash with Tsvetana Pironkova before finally winning in three sets in the second round and it soon became clear Lisicki, pumped up to avenge last year's defeat, would pose her plenty of problems.
The big-hitting 22-year-old, dubbed 'Doris Becker' by German media for her powerful style, was quickly into her stride and broke for a 3-1 lead in the first set.
Even when nerves got the better of Lisicki as she served for the set, allowing Sharapova to break, it was the German's response that impressed as she came out all guns blazing and broke straight back to take the set at the second attempt.
Rain halted play with Sharapova 30-15 up on Lisicki's serve in the first game of the second set. But the 45-minute delay did little to improve Sharapova's mindset and a double-fault presented Lisicki with two break points, which the German gratefully converted at the first attempt with a blistering forehand return.
Sharapova is usually able to hit her way out of trouble against most opponents, but she was rendered increasingly impotent by Lisicki's power play.
When it came to serve for the match, Sharapova might have hoped for Lisicki to crack under pressure.
The German squandered one match point with a miscued forehand and could not take her second either, but a huge ace sealed victory and she fell to her knees in jubilation.
Federer, who reached a 33rd successive Grand Slam quarter-final with victory over Malisse, had to come from two sets to love down to see off France's Julien Benneteau in the
The 30-year-old appeared to be in serious trouble again after taking a 4-3 lead in the first set against Malisse, having to leave Centre Court to take a medical time-out where pain-killers were dispensed.
Back on court, Federer broke Malisse three times in the second set, taking it 6-1.
The 31-year-old Belgian, whose only win in 10 previous meetings against Federer came in their first clash during the 1999 Davis Cup, battled with a break in the first game of the third set on his way to reducing the deficit.
Malisse broke again in the first game of the fourth, but once Federer, who hit 44 winners, had evened it up in the fourth game, he was comfortably back in charge.
He broke again for 4-2 and never looked back with his two hour 11 minute win giving him his 850th career triumph.
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|William A. Cook|