Tue, Jan 24, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Sharapova battles on, Williams exits

SHOCK DEFEAT:Serena Williams was beaten by Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova, leaving Kim Clijsters, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova as the only Grand Slam winners left

AP, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Russia’s Maria Sharapova screams as she celebrates beating Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Numbers told a surprising story for Serena Williams in her fourth-round loss at the Australian Open yesterday.

Seven double-faults, including four in one game, 37 unforced errors and a first-serve percentage of just over 50 percent that had her convinced “maybe I should have started serving lefty.”

Some other numbers indicated why her 6-2, 6-3 loss to Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova on what she admitted was a still-sore left ankle was more of a shock, particularly at this stage of the year’s first major.

She has played 43 singles matches at Melbourne Park since she won the first of her five Australian Open titles in 2003, and yesterday’s loss was just her third. She’s 54-7 since playing in Melbourne for the first time in 1998 and she has not gone out this early since 2006.

“I’m not physically 100 percent, so I can’t be so angry at myself, even though I’m very unhappy,” Williams said. “I know that I can play a hundred times better than I did this whole tournament.”

Without Williams, who injured her left ankle in Brisbane two weeks ago, the only major winners still in contention were Maria Sharapova, defending champion Kim Clijsters and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Sharapova earned the right to play Makarova in the quarter-final when she beat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a night match. The 2008 champion blew a 3-0 lead in the opening set, needed three set points to win the second and advanced on her second match point, despite making 47 unforced errors and eight double-faults.

“A lot of ups and downs today — fortunately I finished on a high note,” she said. “Even though I didn’t play my best tennis, I fought to the end and sometimes that’s what gets you through.”

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki, still in search of her first Grand Slam title, plays Clijsters in a quarter-final today. The Belgian veteran advanced to the quarter-finals with a comeback win over Li Na on Sunday in a rematch of last year’s final, while Kvitova had some trouble late in the match before beating former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 7-6 (7/2) yesterday.

Kvitova is next scheduled to play Sara Errani of Italy, who beat 2008 semi-finalist Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-1.

Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic’s attempt to advance to the quarter-finals and keep alive his chance of winning his third straight Grand Slam was going well at press time as he was beating Lleyton Hewitt of Australia 6-1, 6-3, 3-1 in the late match on Rod Laver Arena.

The Djokovic-Hewitt winner is scheduled to play fifth seed David Ferrer, who had a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Richard Gasquet.

Earlier, two-time runner-up Andy Murray was leading 6-1, 6-1, 1-0 when Mikhail Kukushkin retired from their fourth-round match with a left hip injury, giving Murray an easy path into the quarters.

“It’s obviously good for me, I get to conserve some energy,” Murray said. “Tough for him, first time in the fourth round of a Slam.”

Murray is next scheduled to face Kei Nishikori, who had a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 finalist.

The 22-year-old Nishikori became the first Japanese man in the last eight at the Australian Open in 80 years and only the second man from his country to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final since the Open era started in 1968. Shuzo Matsuoka reached the 1995 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

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