LONDON -- The biggest upset at Wimbledon so far goes to No. 43 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who knocked out No. 2 Li Na 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in the third round of Wimbledon. It was a tightly contested match that saw both women finish with 93 points each, but the 28-year-old Czech played the better tennis when it mattered. The win was Zahlavova Strycova's first in three attempts against Li, and she advances to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. She'll face Caroline Wozniacki next.
Three thoughts on Li's premature, but unsurprising exit.
Li doesn't believe she can win on grass: Grass should be a good surface for Li, who grew up hitting on fast indoor courts and hits the ball flat., but she hasn't been able to accept that mentally. Wimbledon is the only major at which she's failed to make the semifinal, and her lack of confidence on the surface is magnified in tight moments. The fact that she lost on a double-fault in the second set tiebreaker says it all. Li's net play has improved overall under her coach Carlos Rodriguez, but she was dismal against the Czech -- she went to the net 34 times and won less than half the time, converting just 16 points. There was a lack of conviction in her play today, likely a result of coming into Wimbledon without playing any grass-court events. Maybe that will change next year when the pre-Wimbledon grass court season grows to three weeks. Li needs it.
Li shouldn't panic... yet: Was it really just five months ago that Li was walking down Brighton Beach in Melbourne as the newly crowned Australian Open champion? She started the season on a 13-match winning streak and had career-best results this spring, making the semifinals in Indian Wells and the final in Miami. Her clay season wasn't bad either, as she reached back-to-back quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome. But her last two tournaments have been brutal: a first-round exit to No. 103 Kristina Mladenovic at the French Open and now a third-round bounce at Wimbledon. These are two big flops, but clay and grass are not her best or favorite surfaces; Li brings her best on the hard courts. If she doesn't rebound during the summer hard-court season, then it's time to sound the sirens.
The bottom half of the draw is wide open: With Li's loss and Victoria Azarenka's early loss, there's a huge opportunity for everyone that's left. If No. 6 Petra Kvitova can get past Venus Williams on Friday she has a very good chance of making her second Wimbledon final. No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska could also make yet another deep run here, and Caroline Wozniacki is also lurking. She'll play Zahlavova Strycova in the fourth round.