Upsets Of 2013: Michelle Vs Maria
Published November 26, 2013 12:03
As part of Wimbledon's recent revamp, Court No.2, long referred to as the Graveyard of Champions, has moved from its traditional spot beneath the shadow of Centre Court to the southernmost tip of the club. However, if 2013's tournament is anything to go by, the move has done nothing to rid the court of its infamous moniker. Just ask Maria Sharapova.
The 2004 champion was one of several high-profile casualties during the first week of this year's tournament, slipping to a 63 64 defeat against World No.131 Michelle Larcher de Brito.
Still just 20, de Brito burst onto the scene four years ago when she reached the third round of the French Open. Since then she has struggled to build on this breakthrough, bobbing in and out of the Top 100. But against her fellow Bollettieri Academy graduate Sharapova, she provided a reminder of her unquestionable gifts, winning over a typically upset-hungry Wimbledon crowd thanks to a swashbuckling display.
The qualifier's relentless attacking brought a reward in the form of an early, and ultimately decisive, break in the first set. However, it was not until the final act that the contest really caught fire; serving for the match, Larcher de Brito reached match point five times, only to watch the No.3 seed play her best tennis of the day to save all five.
With each spurned chance - Sharapova had two break back opportunities of her own - the tension was ratcheted up a further notch. As Larcher de Brito later admitted, "It was now or never", and at the sixth time of asking she finally crossed the finish line when Sharapova drilled a forehand into the net.
"That was really nerve wracking. I just tried to stay calm and give it my all," Larcher de Brito said. "If I would have lost, it would have been 5-5 and it would have been tough to get back up again because she was serving and she was serving really well.
"I just tried to stay as focused as possible. I hit more serves, tried to stay pumped up, tried to stay focused and concentrate."