June 27, 2014
Number two seed Li Na went crashing out of Wimbledon yesterday in the biggest surprise of the tournament so far.
The Chinese superstar couldn’t handle two tie-breaks against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, a little-known Czech who had only won two Wimbledon matches in the previous three years.
Despite suffering from a suspect temperament in the past, the 28-year-old Strycova won 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) for arguably the biggest win of her career. There was incredible drama after Strycova and her camp thought she had won, only to be brought back when Li Na’s last-gasp challenge of a baseline call was successful.
But the Asian favourite promptly double-faulted to throw the match away, even though she had earned a set point earlier in the second.
Earlier this year Li Na had added the Australian Open title to her French Open glory of 2011. But she flopped at Roland Garros and once again she has left her coach Carlos Rodriguez rubbing her eyes in disbelief.
Every time the Chinese, with tens of millions of followers back home, had the chance to apply pressure, she squandered the promising position with careless stoke-play or nonsensical decision-making. Last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finalist will now have to go back to the drawing board.
Meanwhile the triumphant Strycova, who had never beaten a top-ten player, certainly didn’t choke this time around. She simply enjoyed the big occasion, and that was the key to her remarkable victory.