Roger Federer reached his 33rd consecutive grand slam quarter-final despite suffering an injury scare on his way to a tough win over Xavier Malisse at Wimbledon. His 7-6 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory hardly tells the tale of a match in which Malisse had chances to rock the six-times champion, but mostly failed to capitalise. As Federer seeks a 17th grand slam title, he could do with a lucky break, though, and certainly the next two days will smell of liniment as much as triumph, and feature as many kneading fingers as flying practice balls. Part of the reason behind Federer’s laboured victory was a back injury for which he needed off-court treatment after the eighth game of the first set.
Luckily for Federer, Malisse’s game imploded in the tie-break as he made three unforced errors to hand the third seed the set before the rain came. Comical scenes followed as the players emerged from the locker room but they were ordered back when it started raining again. Federer was still not moving perfectly, but he adapted his game to allow him to take a grip on the match. The Swiss avoided getting involved in baseline rallies and instead opted for softer drop shots to prevent him from putting his injured back to the test.
The tactic worked as Federer engineered a break point in the third game and Malisse completely mis-timed a forehand to send the ball flying into the stands about seven yards from the Royal Box. Only Jimmy Connors with 41 can better Federer’s 37 grand slam quarter-finals in the professional era, but nobody has won more grand slam matches since tennis turned professional. Federer’s victory over Malisse extended his grand slam win-loss record to 241-36.
Top-seeded Maria Sharapova was knocked out of Wimbledon on Monday, losing 6-4, 6-3 to Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round just a month after completing a career Grand Slam. Lisicki, a 15th-ranked German, outplayed the 2004 Wimbledon champion in the wind and rain on Court 1 for her first career victory over Sharapova in four matches. She avenged last year’s loss to Sharapova in the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Sharapova, who won the French Open four weeks ago for her fourth Grand Slam title, is the biggest name knocked out of the tournament since two-time men’s champion Rafael Nadal was upset last week by Lukas Rosol. Sharapova was trying to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2002 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.
Also advancing were four-time winner Serena Williams and defending champion Petra Kvitova, but four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters lost in what she says is her final Wimbledon before retirement later this year.