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July 2, 2013

5-time champ Williams exits Wimbledon in 4th round

(Continued)

It was the same steely demeanor the quick-with-a-smile Lisicki displayed at key moments on court, weathering a near-collapse in which Williams grabbed nine consecutive games to take the second set and go up 3-0 in the third.

“I just was fighting for every single point,” Lisicki said, “no matter what was happening out there.”

Williams hadn’t lost a match anywhere since her three-set defeat against Azarenka in the final of the Qatar Open on Feb. 17. She hadn’t even lost a set since the French Open quarterfinals against Svetlana Kuznetsova on June 4. But Lisicki showed things would be different Monday with an early five-game run, including when she smacked a forehand return winner to break at love and take the opening set.

Lisicki yelled, “Come on!” The crowd, eager to see something special, roared. Williams walked to the sideline slowly, stunned.

“I just was thinking, ‘Let’s get to a third set,’” Williams said. “That’s what I always say when I lose a first set.”

Going from considerable trouble to total control, as if simply by wishing to do so, Williams produced 43 masterful minutes in which Lisicki did not win a single game. Williams did not have an unforced error in the second set, and she even got some unneeded assistance early in the third, with two consecutive return winners that both clipped the net tape and bounced over.

“I felt,” Williams said, “that I was on the verge of winning.”

Lisicki finally ended the drought by holding to 3-1 with one of her four second-serve aces in the match, then a 115 mph service winner.

“Huge serves,” Williams said. “Constantly, constantly, back-to-back-to-back.”

That’s how her opponents usually feel. But Lisicki managed to get better reads on returns late, and broke to get within 4-3 with a forehand passing winner as Williams lost her footing and fell to her knees. The next game was key. Lisicki fell behind love-40, meaning Williams had three break points, any of which would give her a 5-3 lead and allow her to serve for the match.

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