was a day of surprises in the women's draw as both Williams sisters and
Caroline Wozniacki were dumped out of Wimbledon (well, okay - perhaps the
Dane's defeat was more predictable) leaving the title very much open for the
Li Na having already taken an early flight with her husband, the onus was on
either Venus, Serena or Caroline to stamp their authority on the tournament.
Sharapova is the only player remaining in the last eight to have won a Grand
Slam - at Wimbledon back in 2004, at the US Open in 2006 and at the Australian Open in 2008 - with Marion Bartoli the next in line having
finished as the runner up in SW19 back in 2007.
the three big names having departed on a quite stunning day of tennis, Magic
Monday has paved the way for an unexpected winner of the women's title this
are the contenders...
Maria Sharapova (Russia)
is now supposed to be the favourite, with the Russian having won Wimbledon when
she was just 17 and recovered from a spate of injuries and loss of form which
has blighted her career over the last few years. Still at just 24, Sharapova
has the hunger back after becoming more famous for her Sports Illustrated
Swimwear appearance, and looks to be in fine fettle this year.
seeded 24th, showed incredible guts and resolve in turning her match with world
number one Wozniacki around. After losing the first set in less time than it
takes to drill a punnet of strawberries, the Slovak stormed back in impressive
fashion. Was it a fleeting moment of inspiration? It remains to be seen.
Tsvetana Pironkova (Bulgaria, pictured below)
Pironkova has still yet to win a WTA title, but the 23-year-old
Bulgarian's style and finesse around the court have made her a huge hit.
Besides being the latest player to be coveted as much for her looks as her
ability on the court, Pironkova has a game to match those at the top of the
women's game, and this could well be the time when she finally begins to show
her raw potential on the biggest stage.
Lisicki reached a
zenith of being ranked 22 in the world in 2009 but various debilitating
injuries conspired to force her out of the first 100. But 2011 is beginning to
look like a renaissance for the fearsome hitting German. The 21-year-old
wildcard with a formidable serve described by the conquered Li Na as being
"impossible for a woman" is wowing everyone with her awesome power
and ability to simply bludgeon her opponents off the court. Wimbledon could
well be the breakthrough tournament for Lisicki.
might have looked as rusty as an old gate, but Bartoli showed immense passion
and poise to seal a famous victory. The French player showed herself capable of
both squandering four match points, but also in holding her nerve on the fifth.
and largely unfancied, Paszek has been a revelation at this year's tournament,
beating sixth-seed Francesca Schiavone among others, and the 20-year-old cannot
be discounted from continuing her impressive form in the Grand Slam she reached
the fourth-round in four years ago.
Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)
Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka looked in imperious form as she
booked a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals with victory over Nadia Petrova.
The 21-year-old barely needed to rise out of second gear to advance into the
last eight, and the test for the Belarussian now will be if she can
dramatically lift her level to match that of the improving opposition. She's
certainly fast becoming a darling of the fans in SW19.
Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
Just 12 months ago, not many people knew the name Petra Kvitova.
Since then, the Czech 21-year-old has stormed up the world rankings. After
making the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year, where she lost
to Serena Williams, the eventual champion, she has soared from a modest number
62 in the world to an elite number eight. She is well backed from within
the final eight to make her mark this year.
Meanwhile, on the men's side, Bernard
Tomic's authoritative straight-sets demolition of Xavier Malisse reinforced the notion that the Australian teenager has the right game and
the right mind to gatecrash the big-four's expected Wimbledon semi-final party.
Tomic comprehensively outplayed Malisse 6-1 7-5 6-4 to
become the youngest player to reach the quarter-finals since Boris Becker in 1986 and
the first qualifier to do so since Vladimir Voltchkov in 2000.
Voltchkov was barely heard of again after his run was ended by Pete Sampras in the semis
but Tomic looks to have what it takes to be around for the long haul.
Already assured of ending Lleyton Hewitt's 11-year reign as Australian number one, Tomic
next faces number two seed and his hitting partner Novak Djokovic and if he
approaches that match in the same fearless way then he has every chance of
pulling off another huge shock.
Malisse, a Wimbledon semi-finalist nine years ago,
contributed to his own downfall by playing the role of the proverbial bad
workman by blaming his tools - namely his 'shoddily strung' rackets - and Tomic
looked a class above.
With Djokovic the man awaiting Tomic in the last eight it
looks as though his run could face an abrupt end, but he is certainly the
"fresh young thing to hit tennis" the likes of Roger Federer have
been yearning for.
USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "People can dream about it, but
Tomic can't win against Novak Djokovic. Maybe in a year or two, but not yet.
Djokovic just isn't the same player as Robin Soderling or Xavier Malisse..."
(Eurosport reader Srdjan Smiljanic delivers an
entirely impartial assessment of how he thinks Tomic will fare against Djokovic
in the quarters.)
SNAP OF THE DAY: Watching Bartoli's staggering array of
emotions was as emotionally draining as the tennis itself and the French player's
dramatic and incredible mood swings had the whole of Wimbledon talking on Manic