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Sharapova rolls on

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Associated Press
June 29, 2011
— Maria Sharapova’s coach called it “a statement.”

For exactly one hour of excellence, Sharapova played—and sounded—exactly the way she did when she was a teenager, when it seemed nothing could stop her.


Those powerful-as-ever groundstrokes cut through the grass, landing right where she wanted. Those solid-as-ever service returns flummoxed her overmatched opponent. And those loud-as-ever shrieks bounced around Centre Court, its retractable roof shut to keep out the rain.


Simply put, Sharapova dominated 24th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 6-1, 6-1, Tuesday to reach the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time since 2006—back in the days before she needed surgery to repair her right shoulder and dealt with doubts about the future of her career.


“I would have loved for it not to have taken that long, but I’m not complaining. It’s the road that you sometimes have to take. It’s not always straight; there are a lot of zigzags. A lot of time, you feel like it’s a dead end,” said Sharapova, who won her first Grand Slam title at age 17 at Wimbledon in 2004.


“I’ve worked really hard to get in this stage, but I’m not saying this is where I want to end,” she added. “I want to keep going.”


A day after the Williams sisters and No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki were sent home, the three women responsible for those upsets all lost:


-- Cibulkova, who beat Wozniacki, held serve to open her match against Sharapova, then dropped the next eight games in a row;


-- No. 9 Marion Bartoli, who beat Serena, faded down the stretch and was defeated 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1 by wild-card entry Sabine Lisicki, the first German woman to reach Wimbledon’s semifinals since Steffi Graf in 1999;


-- No. 32 Tsvetana Pironkova, who beat Venus, was eliminated 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 by No. 8 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, a semifinalist for the second consecutive year.


On Thursday, Sharapova will meet Lisicki, and Kvitova will face No. 4 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who got to her first Grand Slam semifinal with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over unseeded Tamira Paszek of Austria in the day’s last match.


Sharapova went more than three years between Grand Slam semifinals, until getting that far at the French Open earlier this month. Now she wants another major title.


“It’s great, the fact that I’ve had the experience of being in those stages. But I haven’t been for a while, so it’s a nice and refreshing feeling to have,” Sharapova said. “I’ve put a lot of work in.”


Nadal’s injury isn’t serious

Give Uncle Toni credit for honesty.


Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle and coach, watched Wimbledon’s defending champion put in about an hour of practice on a left foot that’s not as seriously injured as first feared, then offered this assessment to a handful of reporters Tuesday:


“Even if he was 50 percent, I would tell you he’s 100 percent. But he will be 100 percent. Everything’s fine.”


The top-seeded Nadal plays 10th-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States in today’s quarterfinals at the All England Club.


The other quarterfinals are No. 2 Novak Djokovic against 18-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia, No. 3 Roger Federer against No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, and No. 4 Andy Murray against unseeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain.


If the favorites all win, it would be the first time that the top four seeded men all reached the semifinals at Wimbledon since 1995, when Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic did it.


Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray filled out the final four at the French Open earlier this month. There never have been consecutive Grand Slam tournaments with Nos. 1-4 in the semifinals during the Open era, which began in 1968.


“This is obviously a huge tournament for me. Suits my game probably better than any other tournament for me, Grand Slam-wise,” said Fish, who eliminated 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the fourth round and has lost serve only once all tournament.



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