Chinese superstar Li Na became the first major casualty at Wimbledon on Thursday as defending champion Serena Williams triggered a sexism storm over court scheduling.
Newly crowned French Open champion Li was humbled in the second round by German wildcard Sabine Lisicki, losing 3-6, 6-4, 8-6 after squandering two match points in the decisive set.
The Chinese third seed, whose success at Roland Garros earlier in June has been hailed as a milestone for Asian tennis, struggled to cope with the power of her big-hitting 21-year-old rival.
Lisicki, who collapsed in tears on centre court after clinching the win, reeled off 17 aces and several serves that topped 192kmph throughout the match, leaving Li powerless to respond.
“From the first point until the end of the match, every serve was like 117mph [187.2kmph]. It’s impossible for women,” Li said afterwards.
Lisicki, whose career suffered a huge setback in 2010 when a serious ankle injury sidelined her for four months, will tackle Japanese qualifier Misaki Doi for a place in the last 16.
“I always had a very good serve and it’s one of the best in women’s tennis I think,” Lisicki said. “It’s very good to have a weapon like that.”
Defending champion Serena Williams booked her place in the third round after coming from behind to defeat Romanian teenager Simona Halep 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
But Williams appeared to accuse tournament organisers of sexism after being unimpressed with the decision to schedule her match on court two.
She insisted that reigning men’s champion Rafael Nadal and second seed Novak Djokovic — who have won fewer Wimbledon titles between them than her — would never be moved away from centre court or court one.
“They like to put us on court two, me and Venus, for whatever reason. I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe one day we’ll figure it out,” said Serena.
“They [Nadal and Djokovic] are never moved across. Actually, Venus and I have won more Wimbledons together than a lot of the players or by ourselves in doubles even.
“I don’t make it a big issue, but I think at some point maybe I should.”
The rain delays meant several of the women’s second round matches will now be played on Friday, including top seed Caroline Wozniacki’s match against Virginie Razzano and fifth seed Maria Sharapova’s tie with Briton Laura Robson.
In the men’s draw, six-time champion Roger Federer and second seed Djokovic both breezed into the third round as former champion Lleyton Hewitt just failed to upset fifth seed Robin Soderling.
Federer, bidding to equal Pete Sampras’s record of seven Wimbledon titles, destroyed French journeyman Adrian Mannarino in the final match of the day, winning 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in less than 90 minutes.
“I think I served great in the beginning and was able to sort of keep that going for the remainder of the match,” said Federer, who is hoping to build on his fine form at the French Open, where he lost in the final to Rafael Nadal.
“I think I’ve played well for a year now. I think the French Open was just proof that I’m in good shape and physically and mentally in a good place.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t win it, but I didn’t get pulled down by losing in the final. I hope I can make a run here.”
Djokovic — who has lost only one match all year — maintained his red-hot form with a ruthless straight sets dismissal of South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in just under two hours.
“I served well, I played well, I returned really well. That was the key,” said Djokovic, who faces Cypriot number 32 seed Marcos Baghdatis in the third round.
“Every tennis player is looking for perfection all the time, trying to play the best possible tennis.
“Even though I may be hard on myself sometimes I’m satisfied with my performance,” added Djokovic, who could become world number one over the next 10 days if defending champion Rafael Nadal does not retain his crown.
While Djokovic blasted his way into the last 64, Sweden’s Soderling was given a punishing examination by Hewitt on centre court before finally prevailing 6-7 (5/7), 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
Soderling now faces either Australian youngster Bernard Tomic or Russia’s Igor Andreev in the next round.
The shock result of the day in the men’s draw saw Lu Yen-Hsun — who became the first Taiwanese man to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal here last year — down Serbian 13th seed Viktor Troicki 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4.
He won 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4 and will face French 15th seed Michael Llodra of France for a place in the last 16.
The 27-year-old Lu, who defeated three-time finalist Andy Roddick in the fourth round in 2010, had to face an agonising 30-minute rain delay before he could wrap up victory. — AFP