LONDON, England - In a draw that was decimated after the first two rounds, many were already crowning Serena Williams the champion. But Sabine Lisicki had other ideas - playing her very best at her very favorite tournament, and on her very favorite court, the huge-hitting German hit her way past the World No.1 and into the Wimbledon quarterfinals, which has become quite the tradition lately.
Williams actually came under fire right from the get-go, as Lisicki stormed out of the gates with a 44-minute, 6-2 first set, and held routinely at the start of the second set to go up 62 10. Known as one of the best comeback players in the history of the sport, Williams of course turned it around - she won nine straight games from there to take the second set, 6-1, and build a comfy 3-0 in the third set.
But a few huge serves here and a couple of big forehands there and Lisicki was right back in it, catching up to 4-all and, after an overhead that just missed the baseline from Williams, getting an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4. And she converted - with one last inside out forehand winner, the No.23-seeded German finished off the No.1-seeded five-time Wimbledon winner, 62 16 64.
The win extended an incredible pattern for Lisicki. She has now reached the quarterfinals or better here in each of her last four appearances, and in each of those runs she has taken out the new French Open champion - Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009, Li Na in 2011, Maria Sharapova in 2012 and now Williams in 2013. She wasn't able to play here in 2010 as she was recovering from an ankle injury.
"I went out on the court to win the match," Lisicki said afterwards. "That's my goal. That's what I do every time I go out on the court. Of course it gave me a little more energy knowing she won the French Open and I've beaten the French Open champion three times in a row in my last three appearances.
"It was a good omen. They always happen to be on the side of the draw I'm on."
And on coming back from 3-0 in the third set? "I was very unlucky to be 3-0 down," Lisicki said. "I think it was the second game of the third set when I was up 40-15. She had two net cords in a row. Then again when she served, they called it out late after a good shot of mine. But I was just fighting for every single point no matter what was happening. I'm just so glad that I could pull off the win today."
Williams was a very heavy favorite for the title coming into the tournament, and even more of a favorite after the decimation of seeds that took place in the first two rounds. But now she sees her 34-match winning streak - the second-longest winning streak of the new millennium - come to an abrupt end.
"I didn't play the big points well enough," Williams said. "I definitely feel like I could have gone for it a little more on some of the shots. I didn't do what I do best. I think I had a little hesitation today.
"But Sabine played really well, as well. She always plays really well at Wimbledon. And she's always on against big players and on big courts. It was just another one of those moments. So I knew going in it would be a tough match. But, you know, there's definitely huge room for improvement for me."
Williams was asked about Lisicki having nothing to lose, and if she's ever had that feeling herself.
"It's been a long time - actually, no, in 2011 there were some matches I felt like I really had nothing to lose, because I was just starting to come back. I know the feeling. It's such an amazing feeling.
"When you're on a big court against the No.1 and not expected to win, you play that much better."