Li, who became the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title almost three weeks ago in Paris, was ousted yesterday by the German wildcard, 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 on Centre Court in the second round.
Serving at 5-3 down in the final set, Lisicki saved two match points with the two fastest serves of the match, at 122 and 123 miles-per-hour (197 kph) She then produced two aces -- out of a total of 17 -- to hold serve. When third-seeded Li’s wide forehand gave her the victory, the 21-year-old put her head in her towel and cried.
“From the first point till the end of the match, every serve was like around 117 miles-per-hour,” Li said in a news conference. “This is impossible for the women.”
Lisicki was simply too good, said Li, who hit 4 aces.
“I have two match points, but I can do nothing for these two match points,” Li said. “Both players were playing unbelievable. Nothing wrong. Just unlucky.”
Today, top seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain meets Gilles Muller of Luxembourg on Court No. 1 and Britain’s Laura Robson takes on fifth seed Maria Sharapova of Russia. American Andy Roddick opens Centre Court play against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Victoria Azarenka, the No. 4 seed from Belarus, faces Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova.
Earlier this month, Li had changed sports history by winning the French Open. Her victory over defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy was watched by as many as 116 million people in China, according to the WTA Tour. Li, 29, had started the season by reaching the Australian Open final, where she lost to Kim Clijsters of Belgium.
Li’s progress in Paris and London had been closely followed by Chinese media and state-run China Central Television. After beating three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova in the semifinals in Paris, the Shanghai-based Oriental Daily said she was the “No. 1 Sister” of Chinese sports. Her semifinal win was watched by as many as 65 million viewers in China, according to the French Open website.
Li’s Australian Open run in January led to sponsorship deals with watch brand Rolex, ice-cream maker Haagen-Dazs and medical tape developer SpiderTech. She signed an accord with German car brand Mercedes-Benz shortly before Wimbledon.
“Now is my holiday,” Li said. “So week off, just enjoy the day. I don’t even want to think about tennis.”
Li said in an interview in Eastbourne, England, last week that she had celebrated her French Open victory with the Chinese consulate in Paris. She had decided not to go home to China because of the long flight and also to keep her focus on playing on the grass courts of Wimbledon.
“I didn’t feel different,” Li said. “I didn’t feel more pressure. The only change is right now that opponents see you differently. So everyone who plays against you, they feel like they have nothing to lose. So they can play their best tennis.”
Lisicki, who had been given a wildcard by Wimbledon after she won a grass-court event in Birmingham shortly after the French Open, had 32 winners and 21 unforced errors. Li produced 24 winners and made 20 mistakes.
Starting From Zero
The 21-year-old Lisicki, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, missed five months of the 2010 season with an ankle injury.
“It’s been such a long and hard road to come back from my injury,” Lisicki, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon two years ago, said. “I really had to start from zero. In the last two-and-a- half months, I just started to play step by step better and better. So my game was coming together.”
If Lisicki continues to play like she did in the second round, “she will be No. 1 in the world,” Li said. “But I don’t think the player can stay at same level like today.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Elser at email@example.com