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Kerber ends Sharapova challenge
Angelique Kerber secured an inspired Wimbledon victory over Maria Sharapova to extinguish the Russian's hope of winning back-to-back grand slam titles.
In a gripping Centre Court clash between two of the hardest-hitting women in tennis, left-hander Kerber took her seventh match point to seal a 7-6 (7/4) 4-6 6-4 victory and earn a quarter-final shot at Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.
In the wake of Serena Williams losing in the third round, French Open winner Sharapova had been installed by many as a champion-in-waiting, but Kerber was not distracted by such talk as she won a classic.
Kerber had led 5-2 in the deciding set and when Sharapova broke back the momentum appeared to be with the 27-year-old, who won her one Wimbledon title as a 17-year-old a decade ago.
But in almost no time Kerber had three match points at love-40 against her opponent's serve, having failed to take a first chance to seal the win earlier in the set.
She could not take any of the three, and two more passed her by in the same game as Sharapova clung on in desperate hope of survival.
It would be seventh time lucky though.
Sharapova powered a forehand into the net to present Kerber with the opening.
And when Sharapova then lashed a backhand long on the next point, up went Kerber's arms in a moment of exaltation.
Sharapova grimaced, offering a brief handshake, and left Kerber to take the crowd's adulation.
"It's unbelievable," Kerber said.
"It was such a tough match played on a really high level and it was so close, every set was so close, so I'm just happy I won. She's a great player, she plays so well on grass, so I was just fighting and concentrating, focusing on myself, so I'm so happy to be in the quarters now."
Kerber had been knocked out at the fourth-round stage in six of the last seven grand slams, the exception being Wimbledon where she lost in round two last year. She does have Wimbledon pedigree though, having reached the semi-finals two years ago.
"Of course I had it in my mind that the last few grand slams I've lost in the fourth round, but in this match I was just trying to focus point by point," Kerber told the BBC.
"It was a great match, the people enjoyed it out there and it was great to play on Centre Court."
As match-winning chances came and went, Kerber succeeded in staying composed.
"I said to myself, 'Believe in your game, try to hit the ball and be aggressive', and I tried it and in the end it worked," she said, "so I'm just happy that I won the very close battle against Maria."
With the title battle wide open, Kerber is determined not to look too far ahead.
"Right now I will focus on my next round," she said. "Against Genie (Bouchard) it's a tough match. I lost to her in Paris so I will try to focus on myself like today, play aggressive, play my game, enjoy the match and enjoy every single moment here."