Defending champion Serena Williams today faces China’s Li Na in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, a day after Andy Roddick exited the tournament in the fourth round.
“She’s such a tough player,” the 28-year-old American said of Li Na in a news conference yesterday after defeating 2004 champion Maria Sharapova 7-6 (11-9), 6-4 on Centre Court. “She never gives up. Right when you think you have her, she comes back. She’s a player you cannot count out.”
Williams, who leads the No. 9 seed 4-1 in career meetings, is seeking her fourth title at the only major played on grass. She won her 12th Grand Slam championship at the start of the year at the Australian Open, tying the record of Billie Jean King.
Williams has hit a tournament-leading 62 aces, more than twice the 27 for the second-best server, her older sister Venus Williams.
After the fourth round in the men’s and women’s singles draws were completed yesterday, the women are playing their quarterfinals today. U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium, who ousted former world No.1 Justine Henin yesterday, will play Vera Zvonareva of Russia for a place in the semi-finals. Clijsters also made the last four in 2006.
Venus Williams, seeking a sixth title at the All England Club, meets Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova while Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic plays Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
The men’s quarterfinals are set for tomorrow.
Three-time finalist and No. 5 Andy Roddick was the highest seeded player in the men’s singles to exit the fourth round yesterday after he was upset by Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu in a five-set match.
Defending champion Roger Federer beat Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in straight sets. The Swiss is one title away from tying Pete Sampras’s Open era record of seven Wimbledon championships.
No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain and No. 4 Andy Murray, who is aiming to become the first Briton to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, also won. Nadal beat Paul-Henri Mathieu of France, while Murray ousted Sam Querrey of the U.S., both in straight sets.
In his fourth-round encounter with Lu, Roddick kept struggling with his service return.
The fifth-seeded Roddick was upset by the 82nd-ranked Yen-Hsun Lu, from Taiwan, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (5-7), 9-7.
Against Lu, the first Asian man to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Shuzo Matsuoka of Japan at Wimbledon in 1995, Roddick converted one of eight break points. Lu took one of two chances on Roddick’s serve, among the best in the men’s game.
“It wasn’t my serve,” Roddick said in a news conference after the 4-hour, 36-minute match. “It was my returning.”
Roddick’s serve helped him push Federer to 16-14 in the fifth set during last year’s final. Federer also beat him in the 2004 and 2005 championship matches. Roddick, 27, was ousted in the second round two years ago.
“I just wasn’t doing a good job of converting,” Roddick said. “It wasn’t coming off the right way. I was fighting it all day.”
Lu, 26, had lost in the first round of Wimbledon the previous four years. His victory over former world No. 1 Roddick was his first against a top-10 player since he upset Andy Murray of Britain in the first round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Hiring a conditioning coach from Argentina before the grass-court Grand Slam began made all the difference, Lu said.
“We trained really hard for three and a half weeks to prepare for this tournament,” Lu said in a news conference. “He used a new system. It’s a different training program that makes my legs a little bit stronger. So I can jump higher, I can serve better.”
“The thing that he did very well, better than times that we played in the past, was serve,” said Roddick, who had beaten Lu in straight sets in their three previous meetings. “I thought he served a lot better than normal.”
Lu had 22 aces, while Roddick produced 38. Lu had four double faults, four fewer than the American.
Watched by his wife, Brooklyn, on the new Court 2, Roddick had chances to break Lu’s serve in the fifth set. Lu overcame two break points at 2-2 and saved another for 5-4 with a backhand volley.
“That was a pretty impressive volley at that point,” 2003 U.S. Open champion Roddick said.
Serving to stay in the match at 7-8, Roddick’s bid for a second Grand Slam title ended as Lu produced a passing shot on his first match point.
After making the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January, Roddick reached the final at Indian Wells, California, in March and won the title in Miami two weeks later. That marked the first time since 2003 that Roddick had reached back-to-back finals in Masters events.
Roddick struggled during the European clay-court season. He lost in the third round of the French Open to 114th-ranked qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia and pulled out of the Madrid Masters because of illness.
Two weeks before Wimbledon, he lost on grass to Israel’s Dudi Sela in the round of 16 at the Queen’s Club in London. A four-time champion at Queens, it was Roddick’s worst result at the event since 2001.
Lu will play former Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia for a place in the semifinals.