Caroline Wozniacki, in London, on Friday
London: Wimbledon’s grass claimed its most notable victim so far when the women’s world No. 2 Li Na exited the tournament and the lush lawns almost brought an end to top men’s seed Novak Djokovic’s campaign as he took an agonising tumble, here on Friday.
Australian Open champion Li came up against fired-up Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who has never before advanced beyond the third round of a Grand Slam. The pair fought a tight two-hour-19-minute duel that could have gone either way, but the determined Czech held firm in two tie-breaks to win 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5). China’s Li, the second seed, said she felt she had not had enough practice on grass coming in to the tournament.
Djokovic was cantering towards a regulation victory against Frenchman Gilles Simon on Centre Court when, with the score at 6-4, 6-2, 3-2 he slipped before flinging himself at a forehand.
He fell heavily, appearing to jar his elbow, and was left wincing in pain as he rolled on the turf clutching his shoulder. His coach Boris Becker, so demonstrative as a player, was a picture of calm inscrutability in the courtside box until Djokovic’s fall.
It was then that the German three-time champion stood up, leaned forward and watched anxiously as his charge received treatment.
After some shoulder manipulation, the Serb resumed as if nothing had happened and finished off Simon 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 with a characteristically athletic airborne smash.
“It was a sharp pain when I fell, an awkward fall,” the six-time Grand Slam champion said. “I was just hoping there is nothing going on with the joint. Luckily there is no damage and I could play.” Djokovic will now meet France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Monday’s fourth round.
Women’s third seed Simona Halep suffered a less spectacular scare, dropping a set against unheralded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko in a delayed second-round match. Halep, who has vaulted up the rankings over the past year and reached the French Open final this month, eventually saw off the world No.170 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 but not before throwing away two match points as she struggled with her nerves.
“You know, on grass it is not easy. Every match is difficult. You never know who will win or who will lose because of the court,” Halep said.
Muttering and glancing at her support team, Halep briefly looked as though she might be in trouble but she recovered to forge ahead in a tense deciding set. She blew two match points at 5-2 but overcame the jitters to claim victory two games later. Halep had exited Wimbledon at the second round stage last year.
American veteran Venus Williams played like the great champion she has been at Wimbledon on Friday, but fell just short, losing a high-quality Centre Court slug fest against Petra Kvitova.
A match-up between two of the best exponents of grasscourt tennis always looked like being a classic and it did not disappoint as 2011 champion Kvitova won 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5.
Venus, whose last Wimbledon title came in 2008, was bidding to reach the last-16 for the first time since 2011 and played some majestic tennis during a first set in which both players exchanged plenty of heavy metal.
No. 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov battled back superbly to beat Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the third round.
Battling Australian Leyton Hewitt bowed out of the tournament he won in 2002, but not before giving 15th seed Jerzy Janowicz a thorough workout in a second-round match held over from Thursday.
Pole Janowicz, who reached the semi-finals last year, prevailed 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 4-6, 6-3 and will meet Spaniard Tommy Robredo in the third round. It was Hewitt’s 42nd five-set Grand Slam match and gave the 33-year-old the record for most five-setters since the start of the professional era in 1968.
Caroline Wozniacki kept her composure to end the spirited run of 16-year-old Croat Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-0 in the third round.
Wimbledon debutante Konjuh, the youngest player to reach the last 32 at the All England Club since 2005, forced Wozniacki on the backfoot for much of the first set, combining punchy hitting with deft touches at the net. John Isner is the last American man standing. He won a first-set tiebreak 19-17 against Finn Jarkko Nieminen on his way to a straight sets win.
Two women tipped as outsiders for the title progressed on Thursday with big-serving American Madison Keys beating 31st seed Klara Koukalova 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2 and Canada’s French Open semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard too good for Silvia Soler Espinosa.
Andy Murray had it pretty easy against Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, thrashing the latter 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. South African Kevin Anderson rallied to win a five-setter versus Fabio Fognini of Italy. The result was 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 in Kevin's favour.
Among the women, fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland whipped Portuguese Michelle Larcher de Brito Portugal 6-2, 6-0, while Lucie Safarova of Czech Republic upset 10th seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 6-4, 6-2.