Maria Sharapova downed China’s Peng Shuai 6-4, 6-2 in the Wimbledon fourth round yesterday to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.
The first set was a closely fought affair with little between the Russian fifth seed and the Chinese No. 2, but the 2004 Wimbledon champion was able to impose herself much more in the second set against the 20th seed.
“It’s great,” Sharapova said after wrapping up victory in 1 hour, 21 minutes. “I’m giving myself an opportunity to go even further, so I’m quite happy about that. I have to be realistic about the fact that I hadn’t gotten past the fourth round in a few years, so this a step forward and it’s just about taking care of business in the next round.”
She will face either Danish world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki or Slovakia’s 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova today for a place in the semi-finals.
Defending champion Serena Williams didn’t have such a good day, though, losing 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) to Marion Bartoli.
The American, seeded seventh after serious health problems, struggled throughout against the ninth-seeded Frenchwoman, who took the first set on her sixth set point.
Williams, the 13-time Grand Slam champion, made a succession of unforced errors, roaring in anguish after one poor shot, but she showed all her battling qualities to save five match points in the second set and force a tiebreak.
Bartoli continued to serve strongly and she earned another two match points in the tiebreak, the second of which she converted.
Sharapova was being cheered on by her fiance Sasha Vujacic, the Slovenian basketball player with the New Jersey Nets.
The first two games went to deuce and took nearly quarter of an hour to complete, with both players firing hard-hitting, flat shots.
Sharapova’s game started to come together in the fourth game, which she won with a lob, but Peng hung in with some stylish defensive tennis and stayed with the former world No. 1 at 4-4.
The Russian had three break points and though Peng pulled it back to 30-40, she could not stop Sharapova going into the net to finish the game off.
The fifth seed then took the set, winning the next game to love and sealing it with an ace.
In the second set, Sharapova was too good and broke twice, racing into a 4-0 lead, before pressing on to close out the victory.
The match was played in scorching conditions on Court Two, a marked change from the rain-interrupted first week.
“It’s like playing a completely different tournament, you see everyone putting sunscreen on, I even had the icepack out,” Sharapova said. “I’m used to it, I grew up in Florida.”
The first woman to move into the quarters was fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, who beat Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-2. German wild-card Sabine Lisicki reached the quarters for the second time, downing Petra Cetkovska 7-6 (7/3), 6-1, while No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova, a semi-finalist last year, needed just 45 minutes to defeat No. 19 Yanina Wickmayer 6-0, 6-2.
Tamira Paszek, an 80th-ranked Austrian, beat another 20-year-old player — Ksenia Pervak of Russia — 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to secure her first Grand Slam quarter-final berth.
In the men’s draw, Britain’s Andy Murray received the royal seal of approval as he overran Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-2.
The fourth seed, watched from the Centre Court royal box by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, expertly dealt with the considerable threat of the Frenchman.