Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Slick Strycova turns on power to stun Li

Shock factor: Barbora Zahlavova Strycova caused the sensation of Wimbledon so far by sending second seed Li Na crashing out
Shock factor: Barbora Zahlavova Strycova caused the sensation of Wimbledon so far by sending second seed Li Na crashing out

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova caused the biggest shock of Wimbledon so far by sending second seed Li Na crashing out.

At the age of 28, Strycova has enlisted a sports psychologist in a late-career effort to bring a new dimension to her game, and the Czech produced a stunning effort to see off the reigning Australian Open champion.

She clinched a 7-6 (7/5) 7-6 (7/5) win against China's leading sportswoman on Court One.

On match point, Li successfully challenged a call against her to gain a second life, but then immediately double-faulted.

The bizarre conclusion had Strycova initially puzzled.

"I didn't hear her challenge it," Strycova said.

"I was so happy already that the match was over and suddenly she took the challenge and I had to get back to my concentration, but she did the double fault, happily for me."

Strycova is now relishing a clash with Caroline Wozniacki, due to be played on Monday.

She added: "She's a great player. This will be a challenge for me.

"This is my first time in the second week of a grand slam so I will enjoy it."

It will be the fourth time the pair have played each other, with Strycova having lost all three previous tussles in straight sets.

She is not disheartened by that record, insisting: "We have had really good matches, close matches. But we've never played on grass."

Asked whether it could be the time for a lesser-known player to challenge the dominance the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have exerted on the women's game, Strycova said: "It would be nice to change it. But it's not that easy. They are really playing still good tennis and we have to fight for it."

Meanwhile, Wozniacki raced into the fourth round and then declared: "I'm not a victim."

The former world number one ended the run of 16-year-old Ana Konjuh with a 6-3 6-0 victory to reach the last 16 at the All England Club for the first time in three years.

Wozniacki (pictured) has been having a miserable run at grand slams, going out before the fourth round at her last five major tournaments, but she has looked in fine form so far here.

Following her very public split from former fiance Rory McIlroy, after wedding invitations had been posted out, and a first-round defeat at the French Open, Wozniacki headed to Miami for a holiday with Serena Williams.

The break seems to have done her the world of good.

Wozniacki is always a crowd favourite but insisted she does not need the sympathy vote.

She said: "I felt a lot of support from everybody.

"The crowd has been amazing.

"I think everyone here wants to make me a victim.

"I'm not a victim. I'm just playing tennis. I'm going about my life. I'm playing well. I'm in the second week.

"My private life has nothing to do with my tennis.

"When I'm out there, it's a yellow ball, white lines, it's about playing it over the net and inside the lines more than your opponent."

Wozniacki understandably cut a solemn figure in Paris only a few days after McIlroy announced their break-up to the world, but at Wimbledon she has been all smiles.

"To play good tennis, your head has to be there," she said.

"I'm in a good place in my head right now mentally. I think that shows on court as well.

"I'm just so focused on what I have to do out there and what my purpose is when I go on court."

Other third-round matches yesterday saw fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska breeze through 6-2 6-0 against Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito, to be joined by Russian Ekaterina Makarova, China's Shuai Peng, and Czechs Lucie Safarova and Tereza Smitkova.

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