LONDON: Chinese superstar Li Na crashed out of Wimbledon yesterday in another twist to her love-hate relationship with the tournament while Novak Djokovic made the last-16 but only after surviving a painful fall.
Second seed Li lost 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5) in the third round to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic with the defeat coming hot on the heels of her shock first round exit at the French Open.
In eight appearances at Wimbledon, the 32-year-old Li has still never got beyond the quarter-finals, comfortably her least successful Grand Slam tournament.
The match ended in bizarre circumstances with Li, facing match point, successfully challenging a forehand which had been called long.
But the 28-year-old Zahlavova Strycova, the world number 43 who will next face Caroline Wozniacki, was able to quickly celebrate victory for real when Li served up a seventh double fault on the replayed point.
Victory represented a first last-16 spot at a major for the Czech in her 32nd Grand Slam appearance.
“I am very happy. I played a great match and I believed I could do it. It’s my biggest win,” said the player whose low-key career only previously hit the headlines when she served a six-month doping ban in 2013.
Zahlavova Strycova said she did not hear Li challenge on match point against the background of noise in Court One.
“I thought it was over. I had to get my concentration back but happily, for me, she served a double fault.”
Top seed Djokovic survived a shoulder injury scare to reach the fourth round for the eighth time with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Gilles Simon, his seventh successive victory over the Frenchman.
Djokovic, the 2011 champion, needed a medical timeout to receive treatment and take a painkiller after hurting his left shoulder in a spectacular diving attempt to reach a Simon drive in the sixth game of the third set on Centre Court.
But the Serb overcame the scare to set up a clash with French 14th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic admitted he was shaken by his fall and finished the match in some discomfort, but the world number two hopes the damage isn’t severe enough to impede his chances of continuing in the tournament.
“Yes it was a sharp pain when I fell. It was an awkward fall. I was just hoping nothing was going on bad with the joint,” he said.
“There was no damage in the joint, so I could play a few games after that. The muscle was still quite sore because of the impact, so all in all I’m just glad to get through.”
Djokovic has won 10 of his 11 meetings with the big-serving Tsonga, including in the 2011 Wimbledon semi-finals and the quarter-finals at the 2012 Olympic Games, which were staged at the All England Club.
Tsonga made the last 16 by beating Jimmy Wang of Taiwan, 6-2, 6-2, 7-5. Kevin Anderson, the 20th seed, defeated explosive Italian 16th seed Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 to become the first South African man to reach the Wimbledon fourth round for 14 years.
Anderson fought back from two sets to one down to emulate Wayne Ferreira’s run to the last 16 in 2000 and in the process secured only his second win over a top 20 seed in a Grand Slam.
The 28-year-old will play defending champion Andy Murray or Spanish 27th seed Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the quarter-finals. Third seeded Murray is bidding to become the first British man to successfully defend the Wimbledon title since Fred Perry successfully retained his 1935 crown in 1936.
Former women’s world number one Wozniacki reached the last 16 for the fourth time with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Croatian 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, the world number 189.
Belinda Bencic, the 17-year-old Swiss won her delayed second round tie, 6-4, 7-5 against America’s Victoria Duval and next faces third-seeded Simona Halep who clinched a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko.
French Open runner-up Halep will be playing in the third round for the first time.AFP