WIMBLEDON, England — Serena Williams insisted her round-of-16 loss to Germany’s Sabine Lisicki wasn’t a shock because Lisicki is a good grass-court player with a “massive, massive serve” and was vastly underrated as the 23rd seed. In many ways, that made sense.
What triggered gasps throughout a sport thrown off-kilter by a flood of upsets last week was how unaggressive Williams often was. Overwhelmingly favored to win her sixth Wimbledon and 17th Grand Slam title, she was so ineffective at crucial moments, and so tentative, that “shocking” is the only fitting description for her performance, if not the result itself.
Lisicki’s big serve and even bigger store of feistiness were her key weapons Monday in a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 triumph at Center Court. Although Lisicki lost 14 straight points and nine straight games at one stage — she dropped the final six games of the second set and the first three games of the third — she bounced back decisively to end Williams’ 34-match winning streak.
“I went into this match feeling that I could win,” said Lisicki, who lives in Bradenton, Fla. “I just was fighting for every single point no matter what was happening out there.”
Williams, the defending champion, didn’t play like the woman who owns 16 Grand Slam titles and had lost only twice this year. She had a chance to seize control when she led 3-0 and 15-0 in the third set but hit a couple of forehands long and gave Lisicki an opening. Lisicki broke her twice and held serve in a 10-point game to pull even at 4-4 before breaking a rattled Williams again for a 5-4 lead.
“I think that I didn’t play the big points good enough,” Williams said with admirable honesty. “I didn’t do what I do best. I think I had a little hesitation, and that explains it.
“I definitely had my opportunities and I didn’t take them. Maybe I backed off a little bit at some points. If I’m going to be successful, I’m never going to do it backing off.”
Lisicki clinched the victory — and a quarterfinal berth today — on her second match point. After pounding a forehand winner she promptly dropped face-first to the grass in delight. “I’m still shaking,” she said after defeating a reigning French Open champion here for the fourth time in the last five years.
Williams’ loss left 20-year-old Sloane Stephens the lone American singles contender. Stephens, seeded 17th, rallied for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Monica Puig of Puerto Rico. On Tuesday she will face No. 15 Marion Bartoli of France, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Italy’s Karin Knapp. “I think Sloane has a really good chance of winning,” Williams said. “She has a great draw. I think she can take it. It would be really nice to see her win.”
Stephens was flattered. “Very nice of her,” Stephens said. “I have a couple more matches to go till that happens.”
Lisicki will face Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, who eliminated British darling Laura Robson, 7-6 (6), 7-5. The top remaining women’s seed, No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria. Radwanska on Tuesday will face No. 6 Li Na of China, who routed Roberta Vinci of Italy, 6-2, 6-0. No. 8 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, the 2011 champion, will face No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
There were no upsets among the men, just a historic note when Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot won five-set matches to create the first all-Polish Grand Slam quarterfinal.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic held off a late push from No. 13 Tommy Haas to win, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4), and earn a quarterfinal spot against No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who defeated Bernard Tomic of Australia, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4. No. 2 Andy Murray of Great Britain defeated No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1, to set up a quarterfinal against unseeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain.
Murray said he felt calmer Monday than last week. “I think everyone was a bit on edge, a little bit uptight because of what was happening with the injuries, withdrawals, upsets and stuff,” he said. “Obviously, Serena losing today is a major shock as well.”
There’s that word again…
In the other men’s quarterfinal, No. 4 David Ferrer of Spain, a four-set winner over Croatia’s Ivan Dodig, will face No. 8 Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, who defeated Italy’s Andreas Seppi in straight sets.
Also of note, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan won their third straight match in their bid to win the men’s doubles title at a fourth consecutive Grand Slam event.
Williams’ winning streak is over, and the shock waves are still reverberating.