x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

There is no repeat of fairy tale for Dulko

Gisela Dulko won much more than the biggest match of her life when eliminating former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova on Wednesday.

Gisela Dulko  congratulates Nadia Petrova after her victory.
Gisela Dulko congratulates Nadia Petrova after her victory.

LONDON // Gisela Dulko won much more than the biggest match of her life when eliminating former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova on Wednesday. She also won a host of new admirers and the title "darling of the crowds", but the All England Club faithful will have to wait until next year - at least in singles play - to see the elegant Argentine in action after she failed to rise to the occasion for a second time in exalted Russian company.

Nadia Petrova is no Sharapova but she once stood as high as third in the world on the strength of nine career titles. The strongly built 10th seed eventually proved too solid for Dulko as she secured a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 verdict in front of a packed Court Three gallery. It was not a match that the 45th-ranked Dulko was expected to win against an opponent who had defeated her on their last two meetings but it was one she could have won if her forehand, so punishing when it mattered against Sharapova, had not let her down so embarrassingly.

She was also undermined by the impressive serving of Petrova under pressure. The Russian sent down 12 aces in the process of turning the match around and stays on course for a possible quarter-final meeting with the dual champion Serena Williams. Serena again looked serene as she aims to end a six-year wait for a third title here, although the American will be slightly concerned that she allowed the 53rd-ranked Italian Roberta Vinci to break her serve in both sets of their 6-3, 6-4 contest.

Williams hit 10 aces and committed only 12 unforced errors to win for the 172nd time in 200 grand slam matches. The only other woman to play so many matches in major tournaments is her sister, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus on 219. Williams, who clinched her 67-minute victory with her 10th ace, will next meet Daniela Hantuchova, the unseeded Slovakian who recovered from a poor start against her friend and doubles partner Ai Sugiyama to account for the experienced Japanese player 6-4, 6-3.

"I don't think I played great at all," Serena said. "I'm just glad to have got through it and go on to the next match." Serena is expecting a tougher match on Monday when she lines up against Hantuchova. "She's such a smooth player," Serena said. "I have to make sure I don't rush myself, because she is playing well, and I think she's moving well. So I'm going to have to really bring a tough game."

Falling seeds are something of a rarity in the women's draw and it needed an ankle injury to bring about the first departure of a top 10 player. Vera Zvonareva, the seventh-seeded Russian, had battled against it through two rounds but was in too much pain yesterday to take on Virginie Razzano and gave the Frenchwoman a walkover into the last 16. The fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva, a semi-finalist last year, beat qualifier Regina Kulikova 6-1, 6-2.

"I took some time off after the French Open and was working on my fitness," said Demen- tieva. "I was more focused on the footwork and the core building exercises. It's really worked for me." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae