After a chaotic first four rounds in which 312 weeks at the top of the rankings and 23 Grand Slam titles worth of experience were lost, it’s time for the women’s quarter-finals to begin.
Unexpectedly, none of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova will feature in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since the 2008 French Open.
Also for the first time since Samantha Stosur won the 2011 US Open, a champion from outside that trio is guaranteed.
Williams, touted by many as the favourite for the title after the second-round dismissals of the latter two, was upset in the Round of 16 by Sabine Lisicki, whose habit of defeating reigning French Open champions at Wimbledon continued overnight with a sensational upset of the five-times champion.
Lisicki’s victory also denied Serena Williams the chance to equal her sister’s single-season record of 35 consecutive victories.
The trio’s early exit leaves Agnieszka Radwanska, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Marion Bartoli as among the favourites to now succeed at the All England Club.
Two of them will be meeting in the quarter-finals, with the potential for the other two to meet in the semi-finals.
So, without further ado, here is the preview of the women’s singles quarter-finals.
Sabine Lisicki (23) vs. Kaia Kanepi
Head-to-head: Never met*
* this does not include a walkover victory for Kanepi at Beijing in 2011.
What could have been a quarter-final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber will instead be played out between their respective conquerors.
Sabine Lisicki bids to reach the semi-finals for the second time in three years, while Kaia Kanepi tries to reach her first semi-final after four previous attempts.
Lisicki’s run to the quarter-finals has included taking out three former Grand Slam champions: former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round, our very own Samantha Stosur in the third and very recently, the huge scalp of World No. 1 Serena Williams in the fourth.
The latter victory continues her success over reigning French Open champions at Wimbledon.
With the exception of her debut appearance in 2008, Lisicki has defeated the reigning champion from Paris at the All England Club – she defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009, Li Na in 2011, Maria Sharapova last year, and Serena Williams this year.
It has also been suggested that her first round victory over 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone this year makes up for her missing the tournament that year, through injury.
Now, she faces Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who is coming off a giant killing run of her own, having taken down last year’s semi-finalist Angelique Kerber and home hope Laura Robson en route to her second quarter-final at the All England Club.
Kanepi, twice, almost didn’t get to where she is now – she was a set and 5-1 down in the second set tiebreak against Kerber before rallying to win, and last round against Robson she was 5-2 down in the first set tiebreak before nerves started to get the better of the Melbourne-born star.
Kanepi will be hoping that it’s second time lucky in her bid to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon – her previous appearance, in 2010, saw her hold match points against Petra Kvitova before losing a thriller in three sets.
That match must not have left her head since.
Now, she has the chance to make her first ever Grand Slam semi-final, but she will have to be very wary about the threat that Sabine Lisicki poses, having taken down the great wall of tennis that is Serena Williams and preventing her from equalling Venus Williams’ single-season record of 35 consecutive victories.
Prediction: Lisicki in three sets.
Agnieszka Radwanska (4) vs. Li Na (6)
Head-to-head: Li 6-4
Last meeting: Li defeated Radwanska 7-5, 6-3, quarter-finals, 2013 Australian Open.
Following Serena Williams’ departure overnight, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na remain as the two highest seeds left in the draw (and in their half) and now only one of them can go further.
Radwanska could not believe her luck when she discovered that Serena Williams, the woman who beat her to a fifth Wimbledon title last year, was sent packing by Sabine Lisicki in the biggest upset of the tournament thus far.
But the Pole herself was in big trouble, having fallen a set behind against Tsvetana Pironkova before rallying to win in three sets.
That was the second consecutive three-setter that she had to endure, having also played three sets against Madison Keys in the third round.
Now, she finds herself with a huge chance of repeating last year’s run to the final, where many believe she would be favoured against one of Marion Bartoli or Petra Kvitova, the latter of whom remains as the only former champion from the three who started in the 128-woman draw.
Radwanska, though, must overcome her first seeded threat in the form of China’s Li Na, who already got the better of her at the Australian Open earlier in the year.
Both players are engaged in somewhat of a rivalry, having ended each other’s undefeated starts to 2013 (Radwanska won in Sydney and Li won in the aforementioned match in Melbourne) and splitting their matches at Wimbledon (Radwanska won in 2009 whilst Li Na won in 2010).
Li Na shrugged off two three-setters against Simona Halep and Klara Zakopalova to thrash Roberta Vinci in her last match, breaking the Italian six times.
The form she showed in that match, as well as her double-breadstick victory over Michaella Krajicek in the first round, could pose as the real danger to Radwanska and her title chances.
Li has previously reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon twice, losing to Kim Clijsters in 2006 and Serena Williams in 2010.
But if she can break new ground and beat Agnieszka Radwanska to reach her first semi-final here, then it’ll prove that she is anything but a spent force, remembering she lost in the second round in Paris.
Expect a tough tussle between the two highest seeds left in the draw.
Prediction: Radwanska in three sets.
Sloane Stephens (17) vs. Marion Bartoli (15)
Head-to-head: Bartoli 1-0
Last meeting: Bartoli defeated Stephens 6-1, 0-6, 6-3, second round, 2012 New Haven Open.
By reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon this year, Sloane Stephens is set to continue her massive rise and cement her status as “the next Serena Williams”.
Stephens survived an upset-ravaged section of her draw which saw Sara Errani (fifth seed) and Caroline Wozniacki (ninth seed) crash out within the first two rounds of the tournament, and now here she is, in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the second time this year.
We have already seen her take down Williams in Australia earlier this year, but now she faces a tough ask in the form of 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli.
Bartoli would not be here now if it wasn’t for Michelle Larcher de Brito in the second round.
The Frenchwoman would have had to confront Maria Sharapova, whom she has never beaten, for a place here, but the Russian’s second round exit at the hands of the Portuguese qualifier has allowed Bartoli to reach the final eight at Wimbledon for the third time in seven years.
So far Bartoli has impressed as she seeks to repeat the aforementioned run to the decider, which saw her take out Jelena Jankovic and Justine Henin en route.
Additionally, before Sabine Lisicki’s sensational victory over Serena Williams overnight, Bartoli was the last woman to beat her on grass, at Wimbledon in 2011.
She has not dropped a set in her opening four rounds, whilst her opponent, Stephens, comes in on the back of three consecutive matches which have lasted the distance.
Looking at form and the rankings, you’d think that Bartoli would be the favourite here, but you can never count Stephens out.
In the end, it’s pretty hard to predict a winner but I think Bartoli’s experience will be the one that counts in the end.
Prediction: Bartoli in three sets.
Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Kirsten Flipkens (20)
Head-to-head: 1-all *
Last meeting: Flipkens defeated Kvitova 6-0, 4-6, 6-1, third round, 2013 Sony Open Tennis.
* this does not include a match from qualifying at Hobart in 2010, which Flipkens won.
With the exit of Serena Williams, one must now think about the chances Petra Kvitova has of finally realising her potential and lifting a second title at the All England Club to compliment her 2011 victory.
Williams’ exit leaves Kvitova as the only former champion left in the draw but her draw is still far from easy.
Here, she faces a bogey opponent in Kirsten Flipkens, who got the better of her in Miami earlier this year and who, at 27 years of age, is one of the battlers of women’s tennis.
This time last year, Flipkens was battling a blood clot infection which saw her ranking drop to outside the Top 200, but thanks to a huge run at Wimbledon, will find her ranking place well inside the Top 20 as she looks to take Belgian tennis forward almost a year since the retirement of Kim Clijsters.
Flipkens has not dropped a set in her four matches thus far, whilst Kvitova only had to play three completed matches after her second round opponent, Yaroslava Shvedova, pulled out on Black Wednesday with an injury.
Kvitova has also been shaky in her matches, having been taken to three sets against Coco Vandeweghe and Ekaterina Makarova, whilst also being taken to a first set tiebreak by the unpredictable Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
In the end, though, it’s her experience that should count as she tries to force her way out of the club of “one-slam wonders”.
Prediction: Kvitova in straight sets.