Angelique Kerber froze out a barrage of shrieking from Maria Sharapova to send the rambunctious Russian crashing out of Wimbledon. Fearless German Kerber refused to be intimidated by the noise emanating from Sharapova’s side of the net after every shot, which seemed to only grow louder as she sank deeper into trouble.
And the 26-year-old held her nerve in a tense finale on Centre Court to seal a 7-6 (7/4) 4-6 6-4 victory that sets up a quarter-final shot at the brightest new talent in women’s tennis, Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard. Kerber did well to ignore the high-decibel groaning of Sharapova, and said: “When you are in the tunnel you focus on yourself. It was not my first time to play against her, so it was okay because I was not listening.
“When you are out there you try to focus on every single point and on yourself. For me it was fine. I don’t know for you.
“I knew before the match it would be like that.”
The occasion was gripping from start to finish, with Kerber matching French Open champion Sharapova’s power while playing a more conservative game that brought rich rewards.
While Sharapova fired an array of winners, she was erratic too.
Kerber had led 5-2 in the deciding set and when Sharapova broke back the momentum appeared to be with the 27-year-old, who won her one Wimbledon title as a 17-year-old a decade ago.
But having spurned a match point earlier, Kerber suddenly had three at love-40 against the Sharapova serve.
Delving deep into her reserves, Sharapova saved all three, and two more that soon came Kerber’s way to make six in all.
It would be seventh time lucky though.
Sharapova powered a forehand into the net to present Kerber with the opening. And when Sharapova then lashed a backhand long on the next point, up went Kerber’s arms in a moment of exaltation.
Sharapova grimaced, offered a brief handshake, and left Kerber to take the crowd’s adulation.
Kerber was rewarded for going on the attack at the climax to the match, and said: “I was telling myself, ‘You can do it. She won’t make mistakes. If you want to win the match you need to be aggressive, just go for it’.
“She didn’t lose the match; I won it.
“The next match against Bouchard will be a tough one.”
Bouchard beat Kerber in the French Open fourth round recently and that might be relevant.
“But I’m feeling better now and I’m feeling better on grass,” Kerber said.
“I’ve never played against her on this surface, so I will be focused just on myself. I’ll just try to be aggressive, play my game, and not focus on her.
“Of course this is a big win for me, but the tournament is still going.”
Sharapova put on a brave face, and reasonably pointed out the match might have turned her way in the late stages.
She also argued it was much too soon to speak of a changing of the guard at the pinnacle of the women’s game.
Bouchard, aged 20 and up to 13th in the world after reaching grand slam semi-finals in Australia and France already this season, might be the likeliest next first-time grand slam champion. Kerber will also like her chances, particularly if she can come through another round.
“The grand slam champions so far this season are myself and Li Na, yet you see a younger generation that’s driving through the grand slam stages, playing exceptionally against top players,” Sharapova said.
“I think they’re top 20, going to be top 10 in the world now. So you definitely see that shift.
“As far as winning grand slams, I think that’s yet to be determined.”