Bryan Armen Graham
Friday June 24th, 2011

Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova (above) overcame a sluggish start Friday to see off Great Britain's Laura Robson on Centre Court. (AP)

WIMBLEDON, England — Here’s a look at three players who distinguished themselves on the fifth day of Wimbledon.

1. Maria Sharapova. I’m not sure what’s more remarkable about Sharapova, her unrelenting self-belief or the fact that she’s still just 24 years old. Serving horribly in the first set, she felt a surge in the Court One crowd’s emotions as Laura Robson, the 17-year-old darling of English women’s tennis, raced to a 4-1 lead and took the first set into a tiebreaker. When it really mattered, Sharapova combined staunch defense with precise groundstrokes to the corners, to the point where Robson buckled under the pressure. A solid 7-6 (4), 6-3 win for the woman who, when she was 17, won this tournament.

2. Marion Bartoli. People scoff at her unorthodox style (hitting two-handed off both wings) and bizarre on-court habits, but Bartoli has a thirst for conflict. She was up against Lourdes Dominguez Lino, one of the few players on tour who hits a one-handed backhand (usually with slice), and seemed a bit perplexed by the Spaniard’s mixture of pace. In fact, if Lino’s forehand lob had landed inside the baseline on match point in the second set, Bartoli would be heading home. But it didn’t, and Bartoli’s superior groundstrokes began finding their mark in a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 win. With Flavia Pennetta up next, Bartoli has to feel good about her chances of reaching the fourth round against (most likely) Serena Williams. 3. Andy Murray. Calling the match for BBC Television, John McEnroe got a kick out of recent reports that Murray’s on-court attitude has suddenly changed. “Players don’t change in two weeks,” he scoffed as Murray’s body language turned a bit sour in the second set against Ivan Ljubicic. But this proved to be a magical night under the cover of Centre Court’s roof, the only match in play as a rainstorm cut the rest of the program about two hours short. Murray unveiled himself as a pure entertainer, sensational in the clutch, in 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) win.

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