Sharapova advances in 2 sets at Wimbledon

June 25, 2011 - 9:00 AM
Britain Wimbledon Tennis

Russia's Maria Sharapova returns a forehand to Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic during their match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, Saturday, June 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Former champion Maria Sharapova struggled with her game but reached the fourth round at Wimbledon by defeating Klara Zakopalova 6-2, 6-3 on Saturday.

The fifth-seeded Russian, the only champion in the women's draw other than the Williams sisters, had 21 unforced errors and four double-faults in an inconsistent baseline performance in windy conditions on Court 2.

But, after falling behind 3-1 in the second set, Sharapova lifted her game to win five games in a row to finish off the 35th-ranked Czech player.

Zakopalova struggled with her footing, slipping at least four times along the baseline.

Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17, hasn't reached the semifinals since 2006. She will face 20th-seeded Peng Shuai of China, who defeated Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-2, 7-6 (5).

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — With the help of an audacious between-the-legs trick shot, Andy Murray once again heads into the second week of Wimbledon carrying the hopes of a nation for a first homegrown men's champion in 75 years.

The fourth-seeded Murray advanced to the fourth round by defeating Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) in a match that ended at nearly 10 p.m. Friday under the roof on Centre Court.

Rather than Murray's big serve or two-handed backhand, the talk was all about the shot he pulled off in the seventh game of the fourth set.

After Ljubicic hit a short ball, Murray strolled forward toward the service line, hopped in the air, took his racket behind his back and casually flicked a shot through his legs. It floated over the net and landed in for a cross-court winner.

It was similar to a shot Murray hit during his victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the Queen's Club grass-court tournament on June 13.

"It's just one of those things that you're just in the right position," Murray said. "I tried it at Queen's and I tried it a couple of times in practice since. I haven't missed one yet. You look like a (fool) when you do, so I'm glad I made it.

"It's one of those shots that you don't get a chance to try them very often and, luckily, I've pulled it off a couple times the last few weeks."

Murray served for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set but couldn't convert, hitting an errant forehand on the second break point. But Murray took advantage of errors by the 32-year-old Croatian — the oldest man in the third round — in the tiebreaker and ended the match by following up a big first serve with a forehand putaway.

"I felt like I played very good tennis from the back of the court tonight," he said. "I just needed to serve better. And I returned pretty well and I moved really good. So that's a step in the right direction. It was much better than my last match."

Murray now has the weekend off until a fourth-round matchup against 17th-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who beat Simone Bolelli in straight sets. Murray and Gasquet have split their four previous matches, with Murray coming from two sets down to win at Wimbledon in 2008 but the Frenchman winning the last two.

The weight of expectations will only increase on Murray, who has reached the semifinals the last two years. The British public is fervently hoping he will break the curse and become the first homegrown men's winner since Fred Perry in 1936.

"It's still very intense," Murray said of the pressure.

Rain disrupted play again Friday, with five matches suspended in progress and one men's singles match postponed entirely.

Among the unfinished matches was defending champion Rafael Nadal's third-round contest on Court 1 against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg. The top-seeded Spaniard was leading 7-6 (6) when the rain came.

Nadal, who saved two set points on his serve at 6-5 down in games, called for a medical timeout after the tiebreaker. He slipped and fell awkwardly behind the baseline, getting up slowly after losing the ninth point of the tiebreaker.

Nadal and Muller will resume Saturday in the first match scheduled on Court 1, followed by four-time women's champion Serena Williams against Maria Kirilenko and fifth-seeded Robin Soderling against Australian teenager Bernard Tomic.

Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, still looking for a first Grand Slam title, opens first on Centre Court against Jarmila Gajdosova. Six-time champion Roger Federer will be up next against David Nalbandian, followed by No. 2 Novak Djokovic vs. Marcos Baghdatis.

Headed home after an early round exit in his 11th year at Wimbledon is Andy Roddick.

Three times a runner-up but never a champion at the All England Club, the 28-year-old American came up short in the third round Friday, beaten 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 6-4 by unseeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain.

At No. 8, Roddick is the highest-seeded man out of the tournament so far.

Roddick lost to Federer in the 2004, 2005 and 2009 finals — 16-14 in the fifth set of the last one — but only got to the fourth round last year, and second round in 2008.

As the years go by, Roddick was asked, does the thought creep into his mind that he will never win Wimbledon?

"Well, sure," he said. "You're human. ... What do you do? You keep moving forward until you decide to stop. At this point I've not decided to stop so I'll keep moving forward."

Lopez, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2005 and 2008, had lost to Roddick in all seven of their previous matches, including at Queen's two weeks ago.

"I played Andy so many times and he always beat me," Lopez said. "It was so important for me to win today. Even though he beat me before, to beat him at Wimbledon is the most special. I'm happy to pay him back here on this wonderful court."