Serena Williams losing to little-known Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the fourth round at Wimbledon Monday is shocking on face value, but a little less so when considering how the grass courts of the All England Club has devoured some of the game’s biggest stars this tournament.
Defending champion Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the men’s side, and Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka on the women’s side did not get beyond the first three days of this major. That had to give Williams pause. But this was not a case of her losing; Lisicki earned her monumental upset.
She handled Williams in the first set, winning 6-1. In the second, Williams was dominant, losing but one game. And she led 3-0 in the decisive set, only to watch Lisicki use her big serve to fight back into it and win the last four games for a 6-4 stunner. The loss ended Williams’ 34-match winning streak.
What’s it like to beat Williams these days? “I’m still shaking,” Lisicki said several minutes after the match. She wiped away tears. “I’m just so happy.”
Williams looked to be cruising after dropping the first set, winning nine straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third. The players then traded breaks to give Williams a 4-2 lead, but she failed on four break points and did not win another game.
So, Lisicki held, broke Williams’ serve again, and won it on a forehand winner that set off a crescendo of emotions.
Williams said she had trouble handling Lisicki’s serve that reached as high as 120 mph.
“On the grass, with the surface being a lot faster, it’s going to be more difficult to break her,” Williams said.
Sloane Stephens is the only American remaining at Wimbledon. She reached her second Grand Slam quarterfinal of the year, beating 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Lisicki reached the semifinals at the All England Club in 2011 but this will rank as arguably her biggest victory at the grass-court Grand Slam. It was also the fourth straight time Lisicki has eliminated the reigning French Open champion during her Wimbledon run, having missed the tournament in 2010.
“Serena played a fantastic match,” Lisicki said. “She’s such a tough opponent. Just an amazing feeling to win this match.”