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From wildcard to contender

Sabine Lisicki became the first German woman to reach a Wimbledon semi-final since Steffi Graf in 1999 when she defeated French ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1 on Tuesday.

sports Updated: Jun 29, 2011 00:08 IST

Sabine Lisicki became the first German woman to reach a Wimbledon semi-final since Steffi Graf in 1999 when she defeated French ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1 on Tuesday.

She will now tackle 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, who beat Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1.

The 21-year-old, out of action for five months last year with an horrific ankle injury, also became the second wildcard to reach the Wimbledon semis after China's Zheng Jie in 2008.

Playing to a backdrop of thunder and lightning with rain hammering down on the closed roof so loud that it drowned out the sound of ball on racquet, it was a dramatic occasion.

Both players lived up to it too, exchanging ferocious groundstrokes and mixing in crowd-pleasing drop-shots in a quality encounter.

Giant killers
Lisicki, who beat French Open champion Li Na in the second round, was on top from the start and won the first set convincingly.

The ninth-seeded Bartoli, who knocked out defending champion Serena Williams on Monday, broke in the fourth game of the second set but Lisicki, helped by two outrageous baseline drop shots, broke straight back.

Lisicki broke again and served for victory at 5-4 but she was far too tentative and Bartoli saved them all. In a remarkable tiebreak, 10 of the 11 points went against serve but Bartoli, who put every ounce of her energy into her powerful groundstrokes, took it 7-4.

Lisicki, who had to be carried off court on a stretcher after wasting a match point and losing to Vera Zvonareva at this year's French Open, kept her mind and body under control and quickly broke to lead 2-0 in the third.

Bartoli, dripping with sweat in the humid conditions, gradually began to wilt and Lisicki ruthlessly rammed home her advantage to complete victory in two hours 21 minutes.

"I was very disappointed with myself when I played at 5-4 I missed easily, I wasn't really decided to go for it," she said.

"But I felt I was the better player today and I knew I just had to focus and fight again in the third set to win it. I really can't explain how I feel. I was just such a tough route back (from injury) and it's so wonderful to be standing on Centre Court which I love so much. I did a very good job to get here, I'm getting better with each match and I have absolutely nothing to lose."

Big favourite
Fifth seed Sharapova powered into the Wimbledon semi-finals with an emphatic win over Cibulkova.

The tall Russian, the last former champion left in the women's draw having triumphed in 2004, broke three times in the first set under the Centre Court roof as she dominated the small Slovak from the baseline. Three further breaks in the second set meant victory, in just over an hour, was a mere formality on the grass.

Having not dropped a set all tournament, Sharapova now looks hot favourite to seal her fourth Grand Slam title.