| By Monica Gorny

As Russian Maria Sharapova walked onto Centre Court at SW19 today, few would have expected her to dispatch of Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova in only one hour of play. However, the Russian brought with her the bombarding groundstrokes that led her to winning the Wimbledon title in 2004. There was little Cibulkova could do other than to hope that Sharapova’s game would breakdown sometime during the match. However, to Cibulkova’s disappointment, the Russian powered straight through, only losing two games to win the match, 6-1, 6-1.

Prior to the tournament, Sharapova was labeled as one of the favorites to win this year’s Championship. In past years, Sharapova has struggled to move passed the fourth round and match her playing level of 2004. However, the way the Russian is currently playing leaves little doubt that she is a likely contender to hoist the 2011 Wimbledon trophy.

Cibulkova, who won the two previous encounters against Sharapova, came onto the court trying to overpower the six-foot Russian. That strategy had little effect as after the Slovakian won the first game, Sharapova cruised to a 6-1 lead in under 27 min. The second set did not look any different as Cibulkova’s unforced error count began to rise giving Sharapova an extra boost of confidence. An ace from the Russian followed by a forced forehand error from Cibulkova earned Sharapova a place in the semifinals where she now takes on German wild card, Sabine Lisicki who beat France’s Marion Bartoli, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.

Since Steffi Graff reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 1999, Germany has had no one reach this far into the Championships. Lisicki’s feat has already made her a star in her country. However, the German’s determination indicates that she has no intention of stopping here.

The first set of her quarterfinals against Bartoli went back and forth as Lisicki tried to counteract the Frenchwoman’s unconventional game. The German mixed in a powerful forehand with drop shots that Bartoli could not handle, giving Lisicki the first set win. The German started the second set tentatively, giving Bartoli an opportunity to take control of the match. A short lapse in concentration during the second set tiebreak equalized the match at one set apiece.

The third set welcomed back the Lisicki of the first set as she stormed her way through with powerful ground strokes and an increasingly effective serve. Bartoli began to show signs of fatigue having had an intense match against Serena Williams in the previous round. Lisicki took advantage of this, accelerating towards the finish line and into the semifinals. After the match, the young German expressed her disbelief at her achievement. "I am so speechless, I cannot believe it yet.”

In the bottom half of the draw, Czech’s Petra Kvitova defeated Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 to match her best result on the Wimbledon grass courts. The match between Austria’s Tamira Paszek and Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka was stopped due to weather delays and will be completed on day nine of the Championships.

Summary of the women’s quarterfinals:

►Sabine Lisicki (GER) defeated Marion Bartoli (FRA) [9] 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1

►Maria Sharapova (RUS) [5] defeated Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)[24] 6-1, 6-1

►Petra Kvitova (CZE)[8] defeated Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) [32] 6-3, 6-7(5) 6-2

►Tamira Paszek (AUT) versus Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [4] UNFINISHED 1-0