| LONDON, June 28
LONDON, June 28 Fans turning up for the
Wimbledon women's quarter-finals might have been forgiven for
feeling a little short-changed by Tuesday's lineup yet the
action served up by some of the sport's lesser lights was
undoubtedly worth the ticket.
It was the first time in 98 years that the last eight had
been an all-European affair and with Serena and Venus Williams
both knocked out in the fourth round a few of the remaining
players were not exactly household names.
Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon champion in 2004, was the only
one with a grand slam title to her name and 2007 Wimbledon
runner-up Marion Bartoli was the only other player to have
reached a final.
Amid the clutch of eastern Europeans still involved were
Slovak Dominika Cibulkova and Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, who
have earned almost $4 million in prize money between them
without ever winning a ranking tournament.
However, for the players involved it was obviously a huge
opportunity and, for the most part, they provided rich
Of course, had the Williams sisters returned from their
lengthy layoffs and gone on to contest the final again there
would have been widespread complaints about the lack of quality
in the women's game.
Battling German Sabine Lisicki, who reached the
quarter-finals as a 19-year-old in 2009, would probably be
something of top name by now had she not missed much of last
year through injury and she brought a touch of romance to the
tournament when she became only the second wildcard to reach the
She and Bartoli served up a superb match to open proceedings
on Centre Court, with the atmosphere cranked up by the rain
drumming on the roof as lightning flashed above.
Bartoli saved three match points in the second set as both
women traded ferocious groundstrokes but with Lisicki also
mixing things up by liberal use of the drop shot.
The packed crowd certainly appreciated the effort and
quality they were seeing and provided raucous support to both
Bartoli, who gave absolutely everything on each shot,
eventually ran out of steam and lost the third set 6-1 but she
was quick to defend the state of the women's game.
"Maybe people outside (of tennis) are just thinking about
the names," she said.
"But I think we showed a very good match today and I don't
really think that because we are not named Serena or Venus
Williams it means we don't know how to play tennis.
"I think everyone really enjoyed that kind of match. I think
woman's tennis just has to get to have more matches like that so
people will enjoy to come and watch us. Even though we don't
have some big star names, we still be able to play some good
"I think it all depends on the level of intensity we show up
on the court."
Sharapova certainly showed that as she steamrollered
Cibulkova 6-1 6-1 in an hour and though the match was not a
contest in any way, it was certainly an exhibition of fabulous
hitting by the number five seed and hot favourite.
Czech Petra Kvitova's clash with Pironkova was a meeting of
two of last year's semi-finalists and though lacking the quality
of the Lisicki-Bartoli match, there was drama before Kvitova
triumphed in three sets against a woman who arrived at Wimbledon
having won only four matches in 14 tournaments this year.
Fourth seed Victoria Azarenka then overpowered Austrian
Tamira Paszek in straight sets to set up a last-four clash
against Kvitova and with Sharapova taking on Lisicki in the
other semi-final there was still plenty of life left in the
women's singles tournament.
(Editing by; to query or comment on this story email