LONDON, England - She may have been the No.5 seed, but with all that she's done in recent months, and all that she's done here, it's surely one of the biggest upsets of the tournament. Maria Sharapova fell to Angelique Kerber in a Centre Court nail-biter in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Sharapova came into the match-up with Kerber with all kinds of momentum, winning 22 of her last 23 matches - a stretch that dated back to the start of April and included her fifth Grand Slam title at the French Open. She also hadn't lost a set through three rounds here at the All-England Club.
But Kerber is always dangerous - she's had a slew of Top 5 wins before, she's been to two Grand Slam semifinals before (including here two years ago), and she had beaten Sharapova once before.
The Turning Point
In a match with a number of turning points, the beginning of the third set was the one that seemed to seal Sharapova's fate. The pair split the first two sets - Kerber let go of an early 5-3 lead but snuck out the first set in a tie-break anyway, and Sharapova retaliated with a comfortable 6-4 second set.
But Kerber struck again early in the decider, holding, breaking then holding again for a 3-0 lead, and though there were some moments late in the match where it looked like Sharapova might come back, like fighting off a match point down 5-2 with a massive backhand that clipped the line, getting the break back as Kerber served for the match at 5-3, and fighting off another five match points while serving to stay in the match, it was just a little bit too late. It was seventh match point lucky for the German.
The No.9-seeded Kerber completed the mission against the No.5-seeded Sharapova, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.
"It's unbelievable," Kerber told the BBC right after the match. "It was such a tough match. We were playing on a really high level, and it was so close - every single set was so close. I'm just happy I won the match - Maria is a great player and plays so well on grass, so this is really just unbelievable.
"When I had the three match points at 0-40 I was just trying to focus on myself, play my game and stay aggressive. In the end it worked, and I'm happy I won this battle and am in the quarterfinals now.
"I enjoyed playing on Centre Court. I think the fans enjoyed it too. It was an amazing atmosphere."
"I think there were a few little key moments in teach set that I can learn from," Sharapova said. "I was up in the tie-breaker and didn't follow through. It was great to come back in that second. But I had a really slow start in the third, and she rode with that confidence. It was just a few points at the end of that. Maybe things would've been different if I won that game, but in the end I didn't win that game.
"I did everything I could in the end to save those match points, but I didn't save the last one."
Sharapova was asked how big a surprise it is that she - and a number of other favorites - are out.
"It happens. That's the game. Just because you come in as a favorite, doesn't mean you're guaranteed to hold the trophy. That's why we play this sport. You start from the first round. As many people anticipate certain matches, people going through, the favorites - at the end of the day those are just words. We as players have to go out and play. And that's the way some of the results have turned out."