Published: June 24, 2011
LONDON - French Open champion Li Na suffered the first major upset at this year's Wimbledon when she lost 3-6 6-4 8-6 to big-serving German wildcard Sabine Lisicki on Thursday.
The third-seeded Chinese, who became the first Asian player to win a grand slam title earlier this month, squandered two match points in the third set to give Lisicki a chance which the 21-year-old 2009 quarter-finalist grabbed with both hands.
Lisicki, awarded a wildcard to the main draw following an ankle injury which put her on crutches last year, burst into tears as she dropped to her knees in celebration after booking a third-round clash with Japan's Misaki Doi, the world number 133.
"It was really really hard," said Lisicki, who had shown her potential on grass this month when she won at Edgbaston, her first title since 2009. "I had to start from zero having been on crutches for seven weeks.
"Winning the title in Birmingham meant so much to me. And of course getting the wildcard here, I appreciate that so so much. To be back in Wimbledon, a place I love so much.
"They (the crowd) really helped me when I was two match points down. I didn't know it could get so loud in there. It was amazing."
The match was played under Centre Court's retractable roof with rain splashing on the top when the players were warming up but it did not stop Li sporting a sun visor.
What had seemed to be a filler-in between two men's matches on the showpiece court, judging by the number of empty seats at the start as fans sought refreshments, turned into a thriller.
Li had looked to be heading for a straightforward victory after dominating from the baseline in the first set but Lisicki dug out some tricky dropshots to force the Chinese forward where the errors crept in.
The world number four handed Lisicki a break in the fourth game of the second set with a double fault and the German unleashed some fast serves, some of which were recorded at over 120 miles per hour, to surge 5-2 ahead.
"(From the) start of the first point till the end of the match, every serve was like around 117 miles. I mean, this is impossible for the women," Li told a news conference.
Neither player seemed to want to make it easy for themselves as Lisicki dropped serve when serving for the set in the ninth game but she broke back immediately to level the match.
The fast serves kept raining down, with Li powerless to stop herself overhitting her returns even if her sizzling crosscourt backhands kept her very much in the match.
The finishing line was in sight when she earned herself two match points on the Lisicki serve but she twice sent shots into the net and her chance slipped away.
Buoyed by her narrow escape and a wave of support for the underdog, Lisicki kept her nerve to set up her own match points and she sealed an emotional victory on her third when Li sent a forehand wide.