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US Open 2012: Laura Robson beats Li Na

Stunning! Robson dumps world No 8 Li out to reach US Open fourth round



18:43 GMT, 31 August 2012

Laura Robson continued her giant-killing run at the US Open with a brilliant victory over ninth seed Li Na to reach the fourth round.

The 18-year-old had pulled off one of the results of the tournament in the second round by beating three-time champion Kim Clijsters, sending the Belgian into retirement, but this was even better.

In the final set in particular, Robson outplayed one of the form players of the tour and last year's French Open champion to clinch a 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 victory.

Giant killer: Laura Robson will face Sam Stosur in the fourth round at the US Open

Giant killer: Laura Robson will face Sam Stosur in the fourth round at the US Open

Impressive: Laura Robson took the game to Li Na

Impressive: Laura Robson took the game to Li Na

She becomes the first British woman
to make the fourth round at a grand slam since Sam Smith at Wimbledon in
1998 and the first in New York since Jo Durie 21 years ago.Afterwards,
Robson revealed her plan had just been to take on her shots.

'I knew if I kept sticking with her and playing my shots it might pay off and it did,' she told Sky Sports 3.

'I had a few break points early on and I gave them up with average returning, so when I got a chance I knew I had to go for it.

'She's a great hitter so knew I had to go for it, I`m going to go back to the gym and try to recover for the next match.'

Robson also put her stunning tournament so far down to her fitness levels.

'I've been injured loads in the past
and this is my first time injury free. That`s the biggest improvement
and difference,' she added.

Against Clijsters, Robson had taken
her time to settle but she was firing from the off on Friday, breaking her
opponent's serve with a crunching return to lead 2-0.

Li hit back immediately but the
Chinese player was making far more mistakes than usual and a forehand
long handed Robson another break to lead 4-2.

She missed her chance serving for the
set three games later but Li was helping her opponent out and another
error gave Robson the set on her second opportunity.

Outclassed: Li Na could not get going in the contest

Outclassed: Li Na could not get going in the contest

The quality was nothing like that of the Clijsters encounter, with both players making a lot more mistakes than they would have liked, but it was costing the ninth seed more.

Robson dropped serve for a third time at the start of the second set but again responded straight away, nailing a cross-court backhand that had too much power for her opponent.

Robson screamed when she conceded a break point in the seventh game only to save it with an ace. The 18-year-old was serving more double faults than she would have liked, seven in total, but, when she got her first serve in, it was causing big problems for Li.

Twice the British number three held to force Li to serve to stay in the match, but the 30-year-old was playing much better now and did not waver.

The tie-break was as tight as they come and, although Robson did little wrong, it was Li who took it on her first set point with a backhand that landed on the back of the baseline.

Coming-of-age: Robson has now beaten Kim Clijsters and Li on her way to the last 16

Coming-of-age: Robson has now beaten Kim Clijsters and Li on her way to the last 16

It was a blow for the British player but, far from letting it affect her, she redoubled her efforts, showing the improved movement that has been such a feature of her run here.

Li saved three break points in the third game but she could not hold off Robson two games later.

It looked like the ninth seed had been handed a reprieve when a poor line call denied Robson but that only spurred her on even more and the teenager's prodigious ball striking drew the error from Li.

It really was a remarkable performance from Robson, who was playing better and better, and she broke through again to lead 5-2 and leave herself serving for the match.

A double fault hinted at nerves but that was a minor blip and Robson took her first match point with another big serve that Li could only scramble back long.

It does not get any easier for the 18-year-old, though, with defending champion Sam Stosur up next.

US Open 2012: Andy Murray not surprised by Laura Robson"s success

Murray not surprised that Laura's shining in limelight after Clijsters scalp



22:27 GMT, 30 August 2012

Andy Murray could see the potential in Laura Robson long before they won silver together at the Olympics this summer.

So he was among those less surprised after a day of second-round matches at the US Open which had you pinching yourself at the sight — unprecedented in the modern era — of two British players winning matches on the main Arthur Ashe Stadium one after the other.

Within a few hours of Robson seeing off three-times champion Kim Clijsters in sensational fashion, Murray had marched into the last 32 of the men’s singles with an extremely sharp 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 dismissal of Croatia’s Ivan Dodig.

Shocked: Laura Robson celebrates after beating Kim Clijsters on Wednesday

Shocked: Laura Robson celebrates after beating Kim Clijsters on Wednesday

With a ranking of 89 already guaranteed to be heading into the seventies, Robson is the highest placed 18-year-old in the world.

And Brad Gilbert, coaching guru and Sportsmail columnist, believes that with further work on her fitness she has top five potential.

Murray, too, is full of praise for Robson. It is rare to find him overshadowed at a Grand Slam by the exploits of one of his compatriots but Robson managed it by hurrying Clijsters into singles retirement and setting up a meeting with Li Na.

You suspect Murray found it a welcome change to the status quo, and rather than focus on his approaching evening match he watched her second set.

Big win: Robson beat Clijsters in straight sets

Big win: Robson beat Clijsters in straight sets

Murray, 25, first got a good look at her when they represented Great Britain at the Hopman Cup mixed event in Australia two and a half years ago, and quickly identified the key to any future success.

‘Even when I first played with her I saw she has the potential to move fairly well,’ said Murray, whose own court coverage is phenomenally good.

‘She moved very well against Clijsters, and at the Olympics she was getting a lot of balls and she was moving much better than she had in the past.

‘You need to want to chase balls down and believe that you can get to them. She hits the ball great when she is in the right position. If she keeps improving then she’s going to be a very, very good player. She’s very good already, but she will get to the top quicker.

‘It’s going to take a bit of time to get the consistency but you saw when she was playing against some of the guys in the Olympics that she was returning the serve with ease sometimes.

At the double: Robson and Andy Murray won a silver medal in the mixed double during the Olympics

At the double: Robson and Andy Murray won a silver medal in the mixed double during the Olympics

‘She’s got very easy power and great timing, and if you look at how many teenagers there are in the top 100 compared with what there used to be she’s right up there with the best in the world.’

A crucial reason for her strong form is that Robson is finally on a run when she has not been laid low by injury. This is the first summer that she has been able to compete virtually uninterrupted by ailments that have usually been growth-related.

And there is unlikely to be any slacking on the fitness front with her demanding new coach Zeljko Krajan, the Croatian Davis Cup Captain who in his time with former charges Dinara Safina and Dominika Cibulkova, showed he can make quick gains.

Easing through: Murray eased into the third rounds after beating Ivan Dodig

Easing through: Murray eased into the third rounds after beating Ivan Dodig

Whether Robson can now meet last year’s French Open champion Li Na is an entirely different question.

The Chinese No 9 seed is having a fine hard court season and has already knocked out Heather Watson here, who was passing on any intelligence gleaned to the Robson camp.

Murray now has an encounter with old foe Feliciano Lopez, who has never beaten him.

Lopez was in good form yesterday in beating fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-1 check and this will be a repeat of last year’s US third round, which the Scot won for the loss of just seven games.

Meanwhile, Johanna Konta was trying to join her fellow Brits Murray and Robson at the same stage as she took on the world No 67 Olga Govortsova of Russia.

US Open 2012: Judy Murray celebrates Johanna Konta first round win

Joy for Judy as Konta crashes Fed Cup party: New Brit announces herself on the scene



21:51 GMT, 29 August 2012

Shortly after new Brit Johanna Konta won through to the US Open second round, Judy Murray announced via Twitter that she was off to have a mojito to celebrate — as well she might.

For Konta’s 6-2, 7-5 triumph over world No 59 Timea Babos on Tuesday night appears to confirm that the GB Fed Cup captain can look forward to picking a very decent-looking team in the years to come, one that might even compete with the strongest nations in the female equivalent of the Davis Cup.

If Konta, 21, Heather Watson, 20, and Laura Robson, 18, continue on the upward trajectory of their careers, then there is the basis of a strong outfit to be guided by the shrewd Murray.

Pumped up: Johanna Konta wins her first round match

Pumped up: Johanna Konta wins her first round match

The latest stage of Robson’s development was being played out on Wednesday night as she took on 2010 champion Kim Clijsters in the enormous Arthur Ashe Stadium, with the Belgian set to retire at the end of this tournament.

It was the fighting manner of Konta’s victory that had so impressed, her fourth of the past week having come through qualifying, and it is quite possible she could beat world No 67 Olga Govortsova when they meet in the second round.

Celebrations time: Judy Murray had a mojito to celebrate

Celebrations time: Judy Murray had a mojito to celebrate

The Australian-born daughter of Hungarian parents, who moved to the UK in 2005, already looks as if she belongs in that body of players on the WTA Tour who are ranked between around 30 and 110.

They tend to be hard workers who play solidly from the baseline, are physically fit and strong and do not vary their game to a great degree — although when Konta served out for the match she did play one exquisite volley under huge pressure that suggested she might be better than average around the net.

Should she help form a British trio then the Lawn Tennis Association will feel she has been well worth the investment of time and money it has already put in.

LTA lawyers have helped along Konta’s citizenship process and she benefits from the coaching of Roehampton staffer Louis Cayer, who assists her regular coach, Frenchman Julien Picot. ‘I’ve got a very good support system,’ said Konta by way of explaining her progress this year.

‘The LTA has been supporting me for a number of years. The coaches I have around me I very much trust, and it’s a great team for me to flourish with. It’s just paying off so far.’

History suggests it does not always end up being straightforward for incomers — it was never plain sailing for Canadian-born Greg Rusedski, although he always said he was in it for the long haul and, nearly 20 years on, has been true to his word.

Going through: Konta is into the second round

Going through: Konta is into the second round

Konta does not try to hide her overseas origins, but feels her Britishness was boosted by the Olympics.

‘There were some embarrassing moments where I was very much sweaty palmed, rooting for everyone,’ she said. ‘I was actually really proud watching the opening ceremony. I was like, yes, that’s where I live.’

The idea that should be resisted is that the three represent a wider upturn in British women’s tennis. That is not the case, especially when the admirable careers of Anne Keothavong and the injured Elena Baltacha may not extend much longer.

There is also no obvious outstanding talent coming through below Konta, Robson and Watson, so any claims from the LTA that it is creating a production line — instead of having stumbled across three maverick talents — should be taken with a spoonful of salt.

US Open 2012: Laura Robson beats Kim Clijsters

British ace Robson sends Clijsters into retirement after brilliant US Open victory



22:40 GMT, 29 August 2012

Laura Robson has pulled off the most remarkable victory of her career after knocking Kim Clijsters out of the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

The British star, 18, saw off the challenge of the Belgian 7-6, 7-6 and in the process ended the career of the former World No 1, who is retiring from the game.

Robson played some of the best tennis of her career against an opponent who is widely recognised as one of the best performers in the US Open of all time.

The 29-year-old, a three-times winner, was unbeaten in her previous 22 matches and the last time she lost a game at this event Robson was only nine.

Robson now progresses to the third round with the victory coming just one month after she lost the mixed doubles final alongside Andy Murray at the London Olympics.

More to follow…

Coming of age: Robson has progressed to the third round after seeing off Clijsters

Coming of age: Robson has progressed to the third round after seeing off Clijsters

US OPEN 2012: Laura Robson to play Kim Clijsters in round two

Robson sets up second round clash with soon-to-retire Clijsters after routine win



05:20 GMT, 28 August 2012

Laura Robson gave herself a shot at ending the illustrious career of former champion Kim Clijsters by overcoming the awkward challenge of American teenager Samantha Crawford early on Friday morning.

Playing a delayed match under the night sky at Flushing Meadows, the 18 year-old Londoner beat one of the few players in the draw younger than her 6-3, 7-6, with the help of her racket frame when facing set point in the second.

Moving forward: Laura Robson beat Samantha Crawford, one year her junior

Moving forward: Laura Robson beat Samantha Crawford, one year her junior

Moving forward: Laura Robson beat Samantha Crawford, one year her junior

Moving forward: Laura Robson beat Samantha Crawford, one year her junior

The rangey Crawford, a 17 year-old qualifier with a ferocious ball strike, powered down a serve at 6-5 in the tiebreak which flew off Robson’s frame way up into the dark but landed just in her opponent’s side of the court. The American failed to nail the smash, which Robson just about prodded back to draw a forehand error.

Sensing an opportunity, Robson stepped it up to win a long rally and then closed it out 8-6 when her opponent hit a forehand into the tramline.

The prize is not only to defend her second round points from twelve months ago but also to get the chance to end the career of the hugely popular Belgian, who is bowing out of the game once this tournament is over. A big show court is sure to be the stage for the match.

Playing on the more modest Court No 4, where Robson twice lost in the last round of qualifying in earlier years, Crawford made life difficult for her by giving no rhythm whatsoever, mixing up blinding winners with constant unforced errors.

After looking too solid in the first set the 18 year-old went 0-3 down in the second before reining back her opponent and taking it to a tiebreak.

Next up: Kim Clijsters, soon to retire, is Robson's next opponent

Next up: Kim Clijsters, soon to retire, is Robson's next opponent

Struggling to read a truncated service action, Crawford was always ahead in the tiebreak before the fortuitous bit of framing that saved her from a tense decider as the match finished in an hour and 44 minutes.

Clijsters was champion here as recently as 2010 and made the second round with a comfortable win over another American teenager, Victoria Duval.

Federer out to crown fantastic year at Flushing Meadows

Federer out to crown fantastic year at Flushing Meadows



22:45 GMT, 25 August 2012

It has been quite some year for Roger
Federer since he last sat in the Flushing Meadows press room and
attempted to explain how he had lost in the US Open semi-finals.

He had led Novak Djokovic by two sets
to love and held two match points in the decider only for his opponent
to produce a lasso of a forehand return that turned the match on its

Upbeat: Roger Federer

Upbeat: Roger Federer

The loss ensured Federer finished a season without a grand slam title for the first time since 2002 and added fuel to the fire of those who believed he would never again win one of the sport's four majors.

But Federer always believed and, after finishing the year by winning three titles, including the ATP World Tour Finals, he ended his two-and-a-half-year grand slam wait with victory over Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final.

That also took the 31-year-old back to number one in the world, a position he had last held in June 2010, and he goes into this year's US Open as the man to beat.

Federer said: 'It's been a great last 12 months. I always did believe that if things turned for the better for me, I was always going to be very near to world No 1.

'I wasn't far off, but I couldn't plan on Novak going on a 40-match winning streak or Rafa (Nadal) going for four grand slams in a row as well. Other guys also have their part to play in it. It's not only up to purely myself.

Off court: Kim Clijsters, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and Serena Williams take part in kids day

Off court: Kim Clijsters, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and Serena Williams take part in kids day

'That's where you have to be patient sometimes and just keep working hard and believing that what you're doing is the right thing as well.'

Federer had hoped to add a first Olympic singles gold to his seventh Wimbledon title but Murray claimed revenge in emphatic fashion on Centre Court.

The world No 1 was back to his best in beating Djokovic to win the Cincinnati Masters last weekend, though, and radiated confidence as he discussed his chances in New York.

'This time around I feel like if I'm playing well I can dictate who's going to win or lose,' said Federer, who plays America's Donald Young in round one.

'It's going to take something special from my opponent to win. That's kind of how it feels right now. Then again, I might walk away on Monday having lost in the first round.

'I will never ever underestimate an opponent ever again. I did that enough when I was a teenager. Those times are long gone.

'I'm just happy how I'm playing. I already reached my goal for the year becoming world No 1 and getting Wimbledon again and getting a medal for Switzerland. It's been incredible.

'But I do have this one left for me this year where I really, really want to do well, and I couldn't be more happy returning here as number one. It's super exciting.'

Federer, Djokovic and Murray share top billing but the absence of Nadal is keenly felt in New York.

The Spaniard, who won the title in 2010 and reached the final again last year, has not played since Wimbledon because of a knee injury.

Federer hopes the extended break will mean Nadal can return to the tour fit and healthy later in the year.

'It would be better if he would be here, but then again, it's good to see him maybe giving it a chance to heal and taking tough decisions like not coming here,' said Federer.

'It's been a brutal process for him, I'm sure, missing the Olympics, which I'm sure was also a big goal for him. Then the North American swing and now this. This is significant, but it's not been six months yet.

'He's had a great run in grand slams as well and playing so many tournaments. Many people thought he was going to break down way earlier, and he has played I think four years longer than people already expected.

'People thought four years ago the end is very near. None of that. I just hope he's taking a little rest right now and hopefully coming back strong for the end of the year.'

London 2012 Olympics: Maria Sharapova beats Sabine Lisicki

Sharapova avenges Wimbledon defeat by knocking out Lisicki en route to quarters



22:59 GMT, 1 August 2012

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Maria Sharapova gained revenge for her Wimbledon fourth-round exit as she defeated Germany's Sabine Lisicki in a tight tussle to reach the quarter-finals of the women's singles at the Olympics.

The Russian was one of the favourites to win Wimbledon having completed her set of grand slam titles at the French Open to retake the world number one spot.

But Lisicki proved too strong and Sharapova came into this tournament ranked only third after seeing Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska overtake her.

Vengeance: Maria Sharapova roars

Vengeance: Maria Sharapova roars

The match looked set to go the same way when Lisicki edged a nip-and-tuck tie-break and then went a break up in the second set, but Sharapova showed her trademark battling qualities to turn things around and come through 6-7 (8/10) 6-4 6-3 after two hours and 47 minutes.

The Russian said: 'I was really happy I was able to beat her today. Obviously losing to her a few weeks ago, I was not really happy with the way that I played, so I wanted to change that result.

'Even though I didn't play my best tennis, I was really happy that I got through it and I stepped up when I had to.'

In the last eight, Sharapova will play Kim Clijsters, who kept alive her hopes of a medal at her first and last Olympics by defeating 11th seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-3 6-4.

Sharapova said: 'There's no secrets going into the match tomorrow. We've been on the tour for many years, we've faced each other many times before, so we know each other's games.

KO: Sabine Lisicki was made to pay for her Wimbledon win

KO: Sabine Lisicki was made to pay for her Wimbledon win

'It's our first meeting on grass but
she's such a tough competitor, such a great mover. She has so many great
qualities as a tennis champion. It's always nice to play her,
especially at this stage of an event like the Olympics.'

was the end of the singles road, though, for Venus Williams, who was
edged out in two tie-breaks by German seventh seed and Wimbledon semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, going down 7-6 (7/5) 7-6 (7/5).

The 32-year-old still has the chance of a record fourth Olympic gold medal in the women's doubles with sister Serena, but she admitted a lack of matches caught up with her.

Venus has been battling Sjogren's Syndrome and is continually asked about retirement, but she is not ruling out another Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The American said: 'I haven't played a lot of matches this year and I haven't played a lot of singles the last couple of months.

'It would have been helpful for me to play some more matches for sure, to be in those situations more often. It's the points here and there that make the difference. Hopefully there's 2016 for me.'

Focus: Sharapova had to concentrate hard

Focus: Sharapova had to concentrate hard

The most emphatic performance of the day came in the first match on Centre Court, where Serena Williams needed only 51 minutes to brush aside Beijing bronze medallist Vera Zvonareva 6-1 6-0.

Williams gave much of the credit to the roof, saying: 'This is like a dream court. Grass is a dream court, but then to play indoors on grass… oh my god it's crazy.'

The Wimbledon champion could not be happier with her form, adding: 'I think I played better today and even in my second round than any match I played at Wimbledon. Today I was just playing unbelievable.

'I was nervous going into the match. I didn't speak to anyone. I had a bad practice. I was thinking, “Gosh, I'm stressed out”. I had no idea I would play like this.'

The fourth seed has been inspired by watching the achievements of her American team-mates in other sports, particularly swimming and gymnastics.

Williams said: 'I think the women's gymnastics last night was ridiculously incredible for USA. Everyone did so amazing. I had chill bumps, water and tears in my eyes. I was just so happy.

Not out yet: Venus Williams could still win gold in the doubles

Not out yet: Venus Williams could still win gold in the doubles

'Then seeing Michael Phelps get the 19th medal. I'm really good friends with Ryan Lochte. I'm texting him congrats, congrats, every day. All that inspires me.

'It's like we're here as a team. Even though we're over here and they're over there, we're all playing for the same country. It couldn't feel better.'

In the last eight, Williams will play eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki, who was cheered on by the Danish handball team in a 6-4 6-2 victory over Daniela Hantuchova.

World number one Azarenka will take on Kerber after fighting off a determined challenge from Russia's Nadia Petrova, the Belarusian coming through 7-6 (8/6) 6-4.

The other quarter-final will see sixth seed and former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova face Russia's Maria Kirilenko.

Kvitova was particularly impressive, defeating Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-3 6-0, while 14th seed Kirilenko defeated Germany's Julia Goerges 7-6 (7/5) 6-3.

Wimbledon 2012: Agnieszka Radwanska beats Angelique Kerber to reach final

Radwanska beats Kerber to become first Pole in 75 years to reach Wimbledon final



13:55 GMT, 5 July 2012

Agnieszka Radwanska ended Poland's 75-year wait for a Wimbledon singles finalist as she crushed Angelique Kerber's title hopes.

Radwanska triumphed 6-3 6-4 on Centre Court and will face Serena Williams or Victoria Azarenka in Saturday's title match.

Jadwiga Jedrzejowska was a Wimbledon runner-up for Poland in 1937.

Ovation: Radwanska was lauded by the Centre Court crowd and will be back for the final on Saturday

Ovation: Radwanska was lauded by the Centre Court crowd and will be back for the final on Saturday

But world number three Radwanska is
Poland's first grand slam singles finalist in the open era, which began
in 1968, and it was her defence which was key in fending off Kerber.

Kerber started well with an early
break and the 24-year-old led 3-1 in the opener but Radwanska's greater
consistency then outstripped the German's attacking ploys.

Hard-hitting left-hander Kerber had
taken out Kim Clijsters and Sabine Lisicki in the earlier rounds, and
her bold shots were landing where she planned initially.

If that had continued, Radwanska may have struggled, but Kerber became inconsistent.

'I played really well today,' Radwanska said. 'I think we were both a little nervous at the beginning.

'This is what I was dreaming of since I was a kid. It's everyone's dream to play tennis in a grand slam final.'

The pair began with love service
games and the first nine points went with serve, the sequence ending
when Radwanska lashed a forehand into the net.

Picture perfect: The setting was idyllic for the first ladies' semi-final - but the strain was showing on Kerber (below)

Picture perfect: The setting was idyllic for the first ladies' semi-final – but the strain was showing on Kerber (below)

Picture perfect: The setting was idyllic for the first ladies' semi-final - but the strain was showing on Kerber (below)

Picture perfect: The setting was idyllic for the first ladies' semi-final – but the strain was showing on Kerber (below)

She repeated the error to be pegged
to 30-all, and Kerber brought up break point by outrallying Radwanska
and opening up the court to plant away a forehand to the right corner.

She took the chance, again outmanoeuvring Radwanska.

Kerber's hitting became erratic in
the sixth game and Radwanska broke back to 30, before racing through the
next three, finishing the set with an ace.

Kerber fell a break behind in the
fifth game of the second set when she firstly sent a cross-court
backhand wide and then found the net on the next point.

Her chance to become Germany's first women's finalist since Steffi Graf in 1999 was quickly fading.

Kerber looked sure to have a break
chance in the sixth game when she delivered a deep smash that Radwanska
reached but could only float a yard over the net.

Kerber drove the ball across court to
the right corner but Radwanska read her intentions, got across in time,
and fired a winner down the line.

Final countdown: Radwanska was just too good for Kerber who was left to wave goodbye to SW14 for another year

Final countdown: Radwanska was just too good for Kerber who was left to wave goodbye to SW14 for another year

Final countdown: Radwanska was just too good for Kerber who was left to wave goodbye to SW14 for another year

Briefly Kerber was lifted by winning a
dramatic rally for the next point and soon she did have an opening to
take the game against serve, only to spurn it by hammering a service
return too long.

When Radwanska took the game to lead 4-2, it was hard to see her wasting the opportunity.

Radwanska was looking to firstly
reach the final and then go one step further than her late compatriot
Jedrzejowska, who died in 1980.

Kerber made Radwanska serve for the match at 5-4, but the 23-year-old did not falter.

A crunching backhand winner from
Kerber gave the German the first point, but Radwanska snagged the next
three to bring up two match points.

And after another long rally, Kerber lofted a sliced backhand into the tramlines to spark a jump for joy from her opponent.

Wimbledon 2012: Kim Clijsters loses to Angelique Kerber

Clijsters suffers heavy defeat in Wimbledon swansong as Belgian bows out



18:58 GMT, 2 July 2012

Kim Clijsters suffered the kind of mauling that must make retirement all the more attractive as her final Wimbledon came to a bitterly disappointing end.

Thirteen years have passed since Steffi Graf halted the 16-year-old Clijsters' first tilt at Wimbledon in the fourth round, and on Monday it was another German in Angelique Kerber who ended the Belgian's run at the same stage and in her penultimate grand slam.

Clijsters has the Olympics, also at Wimbledon, and the US Open to look forward to, after which a career which has yielded four singles titles in the slams will be brought to an end.

End of an era: Kim Clijsters has played her final match at Wimbledon

End of an era: Kim Clijsters has played her final match at Wimbledon

Three of those came in New York, one at the Australian Open. Clijsters reached two finals at the French Open but never ventured beyond the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

Romantics talked up her chances this fortnight, optimistic she might be able to summon one final great effort, but Kerber crushed those hopes, winning 6-1 6-1 on Court Three.

Clijsters will enter retirement for a second time having previously taken two years out in which she became a mother. She offered a wave to the crowd as she departed. It was more in apology than farewell.

'What I was thinking about was probably the match still,' she said. 'It wasn't so much about it being the last time. Not at all actually. I didn't really think about that.

'I just had the feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could have done today to have won that match. I just felt my opponent was better on every level.

'I think she played close to the perfect match.

Triumphant: Angelique Kerber raced to victory over Clijsters

Triumphant: Angelique Kerber raced to victory over Clijsters

'I never had a chance to get into the match or where she dropped her level a little bit. She was on every level just too good: served better, returned better, and just in the rallies was hitting the ball very deep, very fast on to the bounce, anticipating really good as well.

'I look forward to just watching her here in the rest of this tournament and seeing her in the future, how she does against different players.'

Left-hander Kerber is having an outstanding year, collecting titles in Paris and Copenhagen and in the week prior to Wimbledon reaching the final at Eastbourne.

Just 12 months ago she lost to Laura Robson in the first round at Wimbledon, but that is a distant memory for a player who went on to reach the US Open semi-finals within three months.

The 24-year-old stands eighth in the world and is rising, and it was a case of an emerging force in women's tennis playing a fading great.

Clijsters could not cope but said she would have no regrets about her Wimbledon fortunes over the years.

'I won't be sorry about anything,' she said. 'I know that every time that I've played here I've given my best, and that's the only thing that I can try.

'Some days it's good, some days it's great, and some days it's not good enough.'

Struggling: Clijsters was never in the match as she bowed out

Struggling: Clijsters was never in the match as she bowed out

Casting her mind back to that debut year in 1999, Clijsters recalled the clash with Graf, coincidentally for whom it was also her final Wimbledon. Graf won seven Wimbledon titles.

'Playing Steffi here was for me definitely one of my dreams come true as a young up-and-coming player,' Clijsters said.

'To be playing Steffi in her last Wimbledon was very, very special.'

She compared her first All England Club visit to a Disneyland trip, spoke of how as a child she 'felt the magic coming through the television' as she watched the tournament from home, and said she would take away fond memories of being watched by family, including her late father Leo.

Kerber, who goes on to play fellow German Sabine Lisicki in the quarter-finals, blanked thoughts of it being Clijsters' final Wimbledon from her mind until victory was secured.

'It was nice to play against her because we never played before,' Kerber said. 'I had the chance now at her last Wimbledon to play against her. It's good that I won this match, for me.

'She's a great player. She's a legend also for me. She won a lot of grand slams.

'I knew that I needed to play until the last point because if I gave her a little chance she would take it.

'I think that's her thing, that she's a fighter.'

Wimbledon 2012: Maria Sharapova one to beat in last 16

Magnificent Maria's the one to beat as old guard look to send out message



22:01 GMT, 1 July 2012

For three women with 21 Grand Slam singles titles between them, this week is about more than just winning Wimbledon. It’s about the old guard sending out a message to the new generation: we’re not done yet.

Win their last-16 matches and Serena Williams (13 Grand Slams), Maria Sharapova (four) and Kim Clijsters (four) will go some way to doing just that.

Williams takes on record-breaking Yaroslava Shvedova, the Kazakh who did not lose a point in the first set of her last-32 win over French Open finalist Sara Errani.

One to beat: World No 1 Maria Sharapova practices on Sunday with her coach Thomas Hogstedt

One to beat: World No 1 Maria Sharapova practices on Sunday with her coach Thomas Hogstedt

Sharapova faces a rematch of last year’s semi-final against Sabine Lisicki, while soon-to-be-retired Clijsters takes on Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the most improved player in the past year.

Each will no doubt be tested and know that, if they do come through, there are plenty more young guns waiting to steal the glory.

Defending champion Petra Kvitova is slipping into the sort of form that suggests she will not be a one-Slam wonder, while Agnieszka Radwanska, Victoria Azarenka and Eastbourne champion Tamira Paszek look in the mood to challenge for a first Wimbledon crown.

Despite the test against big-serving Lisicki — Li Na last year said she served ‘like a man’ — world No 1 Sharapova still looks the best bet to win a second title. The 25-year-old has impressed everyone at the All England Club. Nobody works harder on the practice court, the Russian urging her coach to feed her more balls. But a potential run to glory could be blocked by Lisicki (below), Clijsters, Radwanska or Williams.

Challenge: Serena Williams will be looking to see off the threat of Svedova on Court 2

Challenge: Serena Williams will be looking to see off the threat of Svedova on Court 2

Williams roared and growled like a wolf with a sore head on her way to beating China’s Jie Zheng 9-7 in the third set on Saturday, and Shvedova and the other women in her quarter will feel she is vulnerable.

Strength of character, her huge serve and an intimidating presence count for a lot but Shvedova will feel confident after her golden set, even though she, like Williams, was quick to play it down.

‘I had no idea,’ said the 24-year-old, who bizarrely held the previous record for consecutive points — she won 23 in Memphis in 2006 in a match she somehow lost.

‘I was just playing every point and every game. I remember she won the first or second ball of the second set and all the people started to clap and scream. I thought, “What’s going on” I thought they just wanted to see a good match.’

Williams played down the achievement but acknowledged she has a tough match ahead.

‘I never knew that existed,’ she said. ‘Sasha (her hitting partner) said she got a golden set. I said, “What does that mean” I thought, “Has she won all four in a row and the Olympics”

‘Hopefully, I’ll be able to win a point in the set. That will be my first goal and then I’ll go from there.’

In form: Germany's Angelique Kerber will look to send Kim Clijsters packing

In form: Germany's Angelique Kerber will look to send Kim Clijsters packing

Clijsters’ match is possibly the toughest. The Belgian, who will retire at the end of this year, faces in-form Kerber, the German who lost in the first round here last year to Laura Robson but has since reached the US Open semi-final and broken into the world’s top 10.

Alex Kay Talks Tennis

Her blonde hair has led to some Germans branding her the new Steffi Graf. While she is not that, she has the tools to take advantage of Clijsters’ lack of match practice, and her huge serve suits the grass.

‘I’ve never played against her,’ said Clijsters, who is struggling with a stomach injury. ‘A left-hander is always tough. She’s a fighter and a physically strong girl.’

Kerber and Lisicki make it two Germans in the last 16, with the Italians boasting the most representatives with Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci and qualifier Camila Giorgi.

All could be out by the end of play, especially as Vinci is up against Paszek, the 21-year-old Austrian who excels on grass.

A win for Paszek would set up a tie against No 2 seed Azarenka or Ana Ivanovic, who is aiming to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2008. Azarenka looks too good to let that happen.