WIMBLEDON, England - About the only thing that made Maria Sharapova flinch during her Wimbledon quarterfinal was the streaker prancing around on court.
Sharapova lost three of the next four games — coincidence, perhaps? — before finishing off a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 7 Elena Dementieva on Tuesday to reach the semifinals at the All England Club for the third straight year.
“I heard the crowd go a little wild, and I looked back and saw the man jumping up and down. It took the crowd a point or two to settle down, but I’m pretty good at keeping my focus. I don’t let things like that bother me too much,” the 2004 Wimbledon champion said. “Hey, you guys wanted some entertainment during a women’s match — you got some.”
The fourth-seeded Sharapova faces No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo on Thursday, when No. 2 Kim Clijsters meets No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne in an all-Belgian semifinal.
It’s only the fifth time in the past 25 years that women seeded 1-4 all reached the Wimbledon semifinals, and this is certainly an impressive quartet: All have been ranked No. 1, and all have won at least one Grand Slam championship, including the past three (Clijsters at the U.S. Open, Mauresmo at the Australian and Henin-Hardenne at the French).
Sharapova is the only semifinalist who already owns a Wimbledon title, though, and the grit that carried her to that triumph was on full display on Centre Court.
Well, for most of the match, anyway.
She saved three of the four break points she faced, but did give away a service game by double-faulting twice to allow what was a 4-0 lead in the second set shrink to 4-2. And it was suddenly 4-3 when Dementieva held at love.
That blip followed the disrobed intruder’s interruption, which came just before the fourth game of the second set.
The man did a little jig, followed by a cartwheel, all about 30 feet from where Sharapova turned her back to the display. He eventually was corralled by two security guards brandishing a red blanket.
“It was real bizarre,” Sharapova said. “Even more bizarre that it took 10 seconds for security to come out. I didn’t really look at the guy, thank God.”
Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Maria Sharapova, the winner in 2004, outplayed fellow Russian Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-4 and is now in the semis at the All England Club for the third time and sixth time at a Grand Slam event.
“I was afraid a little bit because, in the beginning, I didn’t understand what happened,” she said. “If the crowd likes it, that’s OK with me.”
Police detained, then released, the latest Centre Court streaker. In 1996, a woman dashed across the most hallowed lawn in tennis before the men’s final. In 2002, a man jumped out of the stands when there was a rain delay during the men’s final.
“It was quickly apparent that the individual posed no threat to the players or the public,” Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins said, “and the incident was dealt with summarily and swiftly.”
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic wasted a chance to serve out the match and was beaten 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 by sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych in the Italian Open quarterfinals Friday.
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