World No. 1 Serena Williams kept fellow former Wimbledon champ Maria Sharapova down for a fifth straight time in recent match-ups on Monday at the All England Club, defeating the Russian 7-6(9), 6-4.
In the first set the younger Williams sister saved three set points before capturing the tiebreak 11-9.
“I thought I played really well and had my chances. If it weren’t for her really great serving, I certainly had a really good look at winning,” Sharapova said. “It was a great experience to be back on Centre Court. If she’s hitting those spots with that speed, I don’t think you’re going to see too many breaks.”
Sharapova nonetheless tested Williams with an improved service return.
“She returned really well,” Williams said of Sharapova. “She’s a former No. 1. She’s so good and so mentally focused. She’s in it for every point. Even on match point, she’s really trying 200%. You have to be ready.”
The world No. 1 will next face No. 9 seed Li Na, who won a Wimbledon warm-up event, and advanced Monday with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 7 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
“Li Na always gives me a run for my money,” Williams said. “She gives everyone a run for their money. She’s such a tough player. She never gives up. Right when you think you have her, she comes back.”
Also into the quarterfinals were hard-hitting lefty Petra Kvitova and qualifier Kaia Kanepi who will next face each other.
Kvitova completely overpowered world No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-0, leaving the Dane on the verge of tears, while Kanepi defeated Klara Zakopalova 6-2, 6-4.
“Every shot was working,” Kvitova said, with Wimbledon her career-first grasscourt tournament. “Playing on the grass here has been special.”
Kanepi with a win would become the first qualifier since 1999 to reach the semifinals, following American Alexandra “Dr. A” Stevenson.
No. 8 seed Kim Clijsters won the battle of the Belgians 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Monday, ending No. 17 seed Justine Henin’s quest for a first Wimbledon title, and having the diminutive former No. 1 looking forward to Wimbledon in 2011.
“Kim made a lot of mistakes in the first set and I was really into the match,” Henin said. “Slowly but surely, she started to be more intense and put me under more pressure. In the second and third, she took all the opportunities she had. I wasn’t aggressive enough. I wasn’t moving forward, that’s for sure. I said this was a year of transition…So, 2011 is more important to me.”
In other fourth-round results No. 2 seed Venus Williams defeated Aussie Jarmila Groth 6-4, 7-6(5), No. 21 seed Vera Zvonareva advanced when No. 4 Jelena Jankovic retired with a back injury trailing 6-1, 3-0, and Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova upset No. 11 Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-4.
“We were both serving well, so that definitely made it close,” Venus said of Groth. “She played really well today. I played well at the end to close it out.”
Scheduled for Tuesday at Wimbledon are all four women’s quarterfinals in (8) Kim Clijsters vs. (21) Vera Zvonareva, (1) Serena Williams vs. (9) Na Li, Tsvetana Pironkova vs. (2) Venus Williams, and Petra Kvitova vs. (Q) Kaia Kanepi.
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