Sharapova falls to Kerber in 3 sets

Angelique Kerber of Germany celebrates winning a point against Maria Sharapova of Russia during their women’s singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London today. (AP Photo / Ben Curtis)

LONDON (AP) — Former champion Maria Sharapova saved six match points before falling to Angelique Kerber in the fourth round at Wimbledon today, ending her bid to win a second title at the All England Club a decade after her first.

Sharapova, a five-time major champion, saved one match point at 5-2 down in the third set and five more in the final game before hitting a backhand long on the seventh.

That gave the ninth-seeded Kerber a stirring 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-4 win on Centre Court in a match that lasted 2 hours, 37 minutes.

“It’s unbelievable,” said the German, a semifinalist two years ago. “It was so tough (a) match. Every single set was so close. Maria’s a great player. I was just fighting, concentrating and focusing on myself. I’m so happy to be in the quarters now.”

Kerber will next face 20-year-old Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard, the only woman to reach the semifinals this year at both the Australian Open and French Open. Bouchard beat Kerber in the fourth round at the French.

Sharapova, who won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17, was coming off her latest major championship at the French Open last month.

“It’s absolutely normal for people to have high expectations of me doing well in Grand Slam stages,” Sharapova said. “I certainly do, as well. Today could have gone either way, and it didn’t go my way.”

While Sharapova sought to dictate play with her big-swinging groundstrokes, Kerber played counter-attacking tennis and went for her shots when the opportunities came.

The match featured high tension and intensity. Sharapova’s shrieks grew louder and louder as the match wore on.

Kerber went up 4-1 and saved two break points to lead 5-2 in the final set. She held a match point on Sharapova’s serve, but the Russian hit a deep backhand that she couldn’t handle.

With Kerber serving for the match in the next game, Sharapova broke for 5-4. Then Kerber went up 0-40 on Sharapova’s serve, but the Russian erased those three match points. Two more came and went.

Sharapova twice earned game points but couldn’t convert. Finally, on the sixth match point of the game, it ended with Sharapova’s backhand error.

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