LONDON -- Never is a long, long time.
That's how long it had been since Barbora Zahlavova Strycova had beaten a top-10 player. The 28-year-old Czech Republic player performed professionally for 12 years before she somehow managed to change the karma.
When Australian Open champion Li Na's forehand was called long, Strycova leaped for joy and approached the net savoring her signature victory -- or so she thought. Li challenged the call, and replay indicated the shot had striped the line. Strycova retrieved her racket and attempted to gather herself behind the baseline.
Whether she did or not we will never know. For Li, in a shades-of-early-career-nerves, threw in a tragic double fault to give Strycova a 7-6 (5), 7-6(5) victory Friday. Li, the No. 2 seed, became the highest-seeded victim so far this fortnight.
"I told myself before the match, I mean, this is Wimbledon, Court No. 1. I shouldn't be grumpy," Strycova said later. "This is why I do this sport. This is why I play, to play these matches.
"It's really tough. You kind of won the match, but you did not. It's so far away still. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh.'"
Since winning her second Grand Slam title in Melbourne, Li has been spotty. She exited in the first round of the French Open, and now in the third here. Strycova -- who won two fewer points than Li -- is into the second week of a major for the first time.
Czech Republic women went 4-0 Friday -- the first time in the Open era the country has pushed four players into the second week of a major.
Later, Li said she wished she had played a warm-up event on grass. It's worth noting that Strycova was a finalist in Birmingham and came in with a good feel for grass.
"Where do I think I lost the match?" Li asked herself, rhetorically. "In important moment, I don't know how to hit the ball to make the point. I was always wait[ing], to see if I was wish the opponent can make mistake.
"But today didn't work."
Li can't get back to the hard courts of North America fast enough.
Djokovic soldiers on
It was not a particularly violent crash -- more of a tumble, really -- but Novak Djokovic came up holding his left shoulder like it had been hit by one of those double-decker red buses that crowd the tourist routes in this town. In the middle of the third set's sixth game, the ATP trainer came onto the court and performed various precautionary maneuvers, while Gilles Simon sat patiently on his changeover chair.
Not surprisingly, the No. 1 seed returned to action and won routinely, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. It was the 21st consecutive Slam in which Djokovic has progressed to the fourth round.
"I tried to land on my left arm," he explained later. "I basically had a strong impact on the shoulder. When I stood up I felt that click or pop, whatever you call it. I feared, you know, maybe it might be a dislocated shoulder or something like that, or joint problem.
"But luckily for me it was only an impact that had a minor effect on the joint and the muscles around, but no damage, significant, that can cause a bigger problem. I just came from the doctor's office, ultrasound. It's all looking good."