Wimbledon: Maria Sharapova full of regret after crashing out
The rare women's double of winning the French Open and Wimbledon titles, last achieved by Serena Williams in 2002, will not be repeated for at least another year.
At Roland Garros last month, Maria Sharapova, seeded only seventh, took advantage as those above her fell by the wayside to go all the way, beating Simona Halep in the final.
With Serena Williams and Li Na exiting Wimbledon, the way seemed to be open again. In a thrilling match on Centre Court, however, the Russian simply made too many errors to overcome the ninth seed, Angelique Kerber, and despite saving six match points she was beaten 7-6 4-6 6-4.
Dry statistics could not tell anything like the full story but hinted at the plot: Sharapova hit 57 winners to her opponent's 27, yet committed no fewer than 49 unforced errors to 11.
Saving the match points along the way may have illustrated her famous determination and resilience but it was a dangerous game to play. Sure enough, a seventh life proved beyond her, giving Kerber the best win of her career.
"Today could have gone either way, and it didn't go my way," Sharapova said. "You're only as good as your last tournament. I made too many errors so I've got to get back on the horse and work hard, keep doing it and keep working."
Now 27, and without a Wimbledon title for 10 years, she is nevertheless not prepared to concede that the younger generation are taking over quite yet.
"The Grand Slam champions so far (this year) are myself and Li Na, yet you see a younger generation that's driving through the Grand Slam stages, playing exceptionally against top players.
"I think they're going to be top 20, top 10. So you definitely see that shift. As far as winning Grand Slams, I think that's yet to be determined."
Kerber, 26, can hardly be counted among the new kids on the block, having first made the top 100 seven years ago. She has been a semi-finalist here (two years ago) without making an impression in any other year on the grass.
"It was so tough," the German said of yesterday's epic, "so close in every set. I had it in my mind that the last few Grand Slams I've lost in the fourth round.
"I was just saying to myself to believe and be aggressive."
Sharapova was taken to a tie break for the first time in this tournament in the first set. HawkEye denied her a 3-0 lead by backing Kerber's challenge that a shot was good and, from 4-4, three backhands in a row betrayed her and gave Kerber the set.
A weak second serve tends to leave the German vulnerable, and it cost her in the second set. A fine backhand winner put Sharapova 4-3 up, then she went 5-3 and served out to draw level at one set each.
In the third set, Sharapova fought back from 2-5 to 4-5.
A classic 10th game unfolded as Sharapova saved three match points. A 100mph serve saved another and a backhand retrieved one more.
Finally, after a seventh match point, Sharapova put a backhand long to end the contest.