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Sharapova v Dulko as it happened

Wimbledon

Sharapova v Dulko live video

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By Tom Fordyce at Wimbledon


1524: Extraordinary match. The crowd go ripe bananas as Dulko dances with delight - even with Sharapova's comeback still in its early days, very few people expected that. The Argentine waves to all corners, an enormous beamer of a smile across her happy chops. Maria gathers her racquets and accoutrements and disappears into the dressing-rooms. What a start to the day.


Sharapova 2-6 6-3 4-6 Dulko
Here we go. Dulko starts well - 15-0 as Maria goes fractionally long - but a fine return takes us to 15-15. Dulko does brilliantly to move Maria all over the place and force another point out of her - 30-15 - and then pings the very edge of the line with another forehand drive. Two match points... Dreadful second serve, and Maria crashes that back - one gone. Then - extraordinary - Maria somehow finds a drop-shot from the back of the court to save the second. Deuce. Dulko finds a dropper of her own for a third match point - smashed back down her forehand side for another wondrous save. Surely this time - first serve in... no! Forehand long with the court hers. Maria is clambering all over her now - flopsy backhand into the net from Dulko - only for Maria to flap a simple forehand into the net. Is that in from Maria - the line judge says yes, but Gisela asks HawkEye and gets the answer she wants. Maria goes big with another forehand - it's long! It's long!

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 4-5* Dulko
Huge changeover for both players after Shara holds to keep her match alive. Dulko only has to hold to seal the biggest win of her career, but what a big word 'only' can be. Maria dabs her face on her towel, sips a little water and prepares to make her final stand.

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 *3-5 Dulko
This way then that, back the other... Maria comes out like a gunslinger, blasting from both barrels against the serve to race to 0-30. She has a great chance to make it 0-40 but misses a nailed-on sitter to an open court, throws away another chance as Dulko's forehand fires into life and is then left stranded as a dropper draws her into the net and leaves the court wide open for a volleyed put-a-way. Dulko one game from the biggest shock of the tournament so far.

Argentina
Sharapova 2-6 6-3 3-4* Dulko
Now it's Maria's turn to go weak at the elegant knees - her serve has started to come apart at the seams. One double-fault, another - and at two break points down, one more to throw away the game. Gasps of pantomime astonishment fill the sun-drenched air.


Sharapova 2-6 6-3 *3-3 Dulko
What a match this has become now! Duggo has dulked deep - I'm sorry, Dulko has dug deep - and is fighting back with fist-clenching determination. There's a splendid exchange from the baseline and then a punchy forehand deep - we're level again, and the crowd are relishing every delightful second.

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 3-2* Dulko
And it turns again - break points suddenly against Shara as Dulko scampers in to the tape and pops a dropper as delicate as bone china cross-court. Maria glares across the net with hair-raising menace, winds up a big serve and punches her way back to the set with squeak and sizzle.

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 *2-2 Dulko
This match has got more twists than a curly-whirly straw. Just when Dulko smelt glory in her nostrils, Shara comes screaming back at her - advancing with menace on second serves, pummelling anything short and munching backhand slicers for brunch.

Text in your views on 81111
"Watching Dulko vs Shara i find myself wondering what the maximum age for ballboys is. I'm 36. Is that wrong?"
Alcosaint by text on 81111

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 1-2* Dulko
Hello - the Argentine ain't for lying down. She goes back to Plan Aggression and it pays off instantly - Maria is pulled all over the shop, finds herself at break point down and then stumbles into a double-fault to set light to most of our third set predictions. Gisela jogs to her chair at the changeover with fresh spring in her steps, and a balding chap two rows back leans forward to capture the bounce for posterity on his glinting digital camera.

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 *1-1 Dulko
"Come on!" squeals Maria, as Dulko capitulates at 30-30 to offer up yet another break point. Spectators slump back in their seats, certain of another break to be taken - only to sit up straight as Gisela goes for broke with a series of first-set style forehand drives. She pulls Maria out wide with dippers onto the line and then sizzles a winner deep to the backhand - and at last she's won a game. Roars of approval from the gladdening galleries.

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 1-0* Dulko
Shara shows the fistpump as she pops away a volley at the net - her forehand is now sounding sweeter than the vocals on a Camera Obscura single. Seven games in a row now for Maria - if that's not ominous, I haven't just seen Bruce Forsyth in the Royal Box.

SECOND SET

Sharapova 2-6 6-3 Dulko
Uh-oh - Dulko's wobbling like a jelly on a washing-machine. There's a double-fault to go 0-15 down and then a forehand wide when the court was winking seductively and inviting the ball home for coffee. Maria mashes a return deep and decisively to go to set point - saved as Dulko gambles on a big forehand onto the line. A double-fault sets up another, a Maria forehand long takes us back to deuce. Feisty returning from Maria sets up yet another - and this time she takes it, her forehand pinning Gisela to the backboards until a backhand collapses into the net. Money surely on Shara in the third, you'd think...

Sharapova 2-6 5-3* Dulko
Dulko's not done yet - she opens up the court with successive slicers to Shara's backhand corner and then whips a a top-spinning forehand cross-court for the winner. Deuce. Shara goes wide with a serve and powers a forehand into the spaces created to go to advantage, and seals the deal with another cruncher that Dulko can't get near. A man in the crowd grimaces at his wife and then drains the rest of his beer with lip-smacking relish.

Sharapova 2-6 *4-3 Dulko
I think we have - Dulko is crumbling in the face of a concerted Maria fight-back. She gives up two break points with forehands every bit as lame as they were luscious earlier on, and concedes a fourth consecutive game with a woeful double-fault.

"I remember seeing Dulko play in the juniors a few years back. She won the girls doubles title, so she can certainly play on the grass."
Steveo77 on 606

Sharapova 2-6 3-3* Dulko
Have we just witnessed the turning-point? Shara's serve has bite, Dulko's groundstrokes suddenly look shaky. Maria follows the break-back with a service game to love - big test now on the next Dulko serve.

Sharapova 2-6 *2-3 Dulko
Now then. Shara has a chance here - two successive Gisela forehands fizz long, and that's break point. First serve misses, second sits up - and although Maria slips, Dulko's nerves are clang-banging like a fire-engine's bell and she slams another forehand into the net. Maria's back in the match...

Sharapova 2-6 1-3* Dulko
The shadow of a cloud ghosts across the Centre Court grass as Shara finally finds her serving spice. She needs to mix things up a little here - come in to the net, stop feeding that ravenous Dulko forehand.

Sharapova 2-6 *0-3 Dulko
How do you solve a problem for Maria? Even if she cloned herself she'd have trouble against Gisela in this form. A few emails and texts about Dulko's looks - first up, that sort of sexist line of questioning has no place on a tennis-loving text commentary like this; secondly, let's just say that she puts the bueno in Buenos Aires.

Sharapova 2-6 0-2* Dulko
Trouble again for Shara. She flops a chased-down dropper into the net, duffs another in from the baseline and has to find her best forehand of the match to save a break point. Dulkers then piles in with another of those wrecking-ball forehands to set up another breaker, and when another leaves Shara stretching, the game is stolen away. Delight from the crowd, who are turning Argentine with every rally that passes.

"The Sharapova on-board computer must be wondering 'I am serving pretty well' but her groundstrokes are just not there and the accuracy of Dulko is the problem for Sharapova. She is not being allowed to settle on the ball"
Sam Smith in the BBC commentary box

Sharapova 2-6 *0-1 Dulko
It's that old forehand-first serve combo once again from Gisela, and the current incarnation of Maria doesn't have the movement or groundstrokes to deal with them. A man in the crowd wearing a straw cowboy hat annoys the woman behind him by tilting his titfer back at an angle both rakish and view-blocking.

FIRST SET

Argentina
Sharapova 2-6 Dulko
Sloppy from Shara, two backhands from the baseline dragged into the net. A delightful dropper leaves Dulko alone in the wilds at the back of the court, a rapier forehand right on the line takes her to 40-30 - deuce after Gisela drills a super return back at her shins. Error again from Shara gives Dulko set point - oh, wasted with a forehand into the tape with the court open. It's the briefest of respites for Maria, though - wonderful fetching from the back of the court keeps the point alive, Maria offers up a help-yourselfer mid-court and Dulko creams a dreamy forehand winner cross-court. Lovely start to the afternoon...

Sharapova *2-5 Dulko
Dulko gets busy with that booming forehand once again - crash! into Shara's backhand corner, wallop! to the forehand serve. A thumper of a first serve takes her to within a game of the set. Funny thing, the Argentine's name - the first part sounds as graceful as a Buenos Aires tennis starlet's should be; her surname like the nickname of the right-back in your Sunday league football team.

Sharapova 2-4* Dulko
Only Shara's fourth tournament since her latest shoulder problems, and there's still a little rustiness in the joints. Eyes shaded from the bright lunchtime sun, she summons up some of the old serving juice to stay in the fight. Hello - is that Richard Stilgoe in the Royal Box? A fitting place for a man of his mercurial talents.

Sharapova *1-4 Dulko
The easiest of holds for Dulko, and Shara can't get a sniff of a break-back. Dulko lost in the first round at Eastbourne last week, but that south coast shocker seems long gone from her memory banks.

Sharapova 1-3* Dulko
Smashing forehand again from Dulkers - she comes inside a serve and takes the ball early to fizz it down the line for the cleanest of winners. Shara then gets her feet moving like Flatley and comes to the net to punch away a forehand volley, and gets that first serve cooking to finally move off the bagel. Michael Lynagh in the Royal Box, which will mean absolutely nothing to either player. Shara's more of a John Eales woman - fact.

"I like Dulko. At her best, she's a very entertaining player, but unfortunately she can lose the plot mentally a bit."
From Rafa fan on 606

Sharapova *0-3 Dulko
Dulkers has reached the third round at Wimbledon three times, and she's showing why here - super serving, a big forehand and savvy on the tactics. Shara chases down a drop-shot and pops it down the line to give herself a glimmer, but a forehand long and punchy Dulkers panache squeeze her out. Maria goes to her chair, covers her bouncing legs with a towel and stares in consternation at a spot on the turf down by her toes.

Sharapova 0-2* Dulko
Interested applause around Centre as Dulko tears into the Shara serve. Maria saves one with a better first serve but then squeaks down a smackable second, is chasing the rally all point and ships the break as a forehand flail flies wide. Game on, eh?

Sharapova *0-1 Dulko
Solid start from the 24-year-old Argentine - all four first serves in, and after Maria drills the first one back cross-court there's little the 2004 champ can do about the rest. A little background on Dulko for you - she has three pet dogs, named Goran, Guga and Nicole. The first two monikers make sense - but the third? Surely not a nod to Vaidisova?

1305: Played against each other twice before, this pair - Maria won both, with Dulko only winning three games in total - although those ding-dongs were back in 2004 and 2005. Hope springs.

1300: Here come the players, stalking out onto the lush green turf - Maria with her trademark white golf visor in place, Gisela D with her long hair tied back in a loose ponytail and a white headband wrapped around her tanned forehead.

1255: Ball-boys stand to attention on either side of the net, purple and green towels draped over the back of the players' chairs. Punters trot down the concrete steps, eager to find their steps without spilling lagers and over-priced soft fruits.

1248: We've already had enough thrills today to last a week - Maria Sharapova dragging a huge crowd of admirers round the practice courts, Richard Williams rocking the mid-calf white socks look while bodyguarding Venus through the crowds and my own attempt to cycle the entire way from home to Aorangi Park hands-free coming to grief at a set of traffic lights on Putney Hill. Still - tomorrow is another day.

1245: Sun, sun, sun. What sort of clown would suggest that Centre Court needed an £80m roof?



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