An Olympic medal is the one thing missing from Maria Sharapova’s stacked trophy cabinet but the Russian moved one step closer to rectifying that on Wednesday with a hard-fought 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3 third-round comeback against Sabine Lisicki.
In a match lasting nearly three hours, the No.3 seed gained revenge for her Round of 16 loss to the German on the same court at Wimbledon last month.
Sharapova let three set points slip by in the opening tie-breaker to drop the first set 10 points to eight and a repeat upset looked on the cards.
But as the shrieking intensified, so too did the potency of her ground-strokes, with the free-swinging Russian clocking more than double the winners for match (44 to 20) including 18 off the forehand wing.
She secured the second set 6-4 with a break of serve after 49 minutes before Lisicki gained the early ascendency in the decider, breaking in the opening game.
Lisicki’s joy was short-lived. Sharapova broke straight back and games continued on serve to 4-3, with the German appearing to challenge the Russian’s winning forehand on the baseline before quickly rescinding the appeal with a shake of the hand and a wry grin to chair umpire Lars Graf.
If there was any doubt as to what the Olympics meant to Sharapova, one only had to listen to the screams of “c’mon” now flowing louder and more regularly than before.
She shrieked with delight when Lisicki’s forehand rolled wide to concede the break and quickly raced to triple match point on serve.
Lisicki managed to save one with a forehand winner down the line before Sharapova brought up the chalk with an ace out wide to seal the 3hr 57mins affair.
She will go on to face Belgian Kim Clijsters for a place in her first Olympic semi-final.