Wimbledon: Serena Williams’ next opponent wins perfect set

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The 5-foot-4 1/2 Zheng watched one second-serve ace kick so high that it bounced over her head. Otherwise, though, she stood tall against the 5-9 Williams, zipping flat groundstrokes that barely cleared the net.

With the American’s older sister, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus, sitting in the front row right above the scoreboard, and Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman (“Major fan of his. … I was honored to have him in my box,” she said) there in support, too, Williams broke for an 8-7 lead in the last set by smacking a big return that left an off-balance Zheng hitting a wild forehand long.

After a couple hiccups while trying to serve it out, including a double-fault and two wasted match points, Williams ended the nearly 2 1/2-hour contest with a 102 mph service winner, followed by a stretch backhand volley winner. She celebrated with a huge leap.

“I just wanted to get through that match,” said Williams, who was upset in the first round at the French Open in late May and hasn’t won a Grand Slam title in two years. “The last thing I wanted to do was lose.”

Her buddy and possible London Olympics mixed doubles partner, Andy Roddick, did lose. The 29-year-old American, three times the runner-up to Roger Federer at the All England Club, blew a kiss to the Centre Crowd as he walked off after being beaten 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-3 by No. 7-seeded David Ferrer, but said he hasn’t made up his mind about his future in the sport.

“If I don’t have a definitive answer in my own mind, it’s going to be tough for me to articulate a definitive answer to you,” the 30th-seeded Roddick said.

Another American, Sam Querrey, also departed, with a 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (3), 17-15 loss to No. 16 Marin Cilic of Croatia. The 5 1/2-hour match is the second-longest in tournament history, behind the 11-hour, 5-minute marathon that John Isner won 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut in 2010.

“I’m bummed. I’m sad,” Querrey said. “But I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be over it and really look back and say that was a great match and it’s a good steppingstone for the summer.”

Two other U.S. men did make the fourth round: 126th-ranked qualifier Brian Baker, who was off the tour for about six years after a series of operations; and 10th-seeded Mardy Fish, who is in his first tournament since having a medical procedure on his heart in late May and hasn’t faced anyone ranked higher than 70th.

Winners also included No. 4 Andy Murray, whose four-set victory over Marcos Baghdatis ended at 11:02 p.m.; No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 9 Juan Martin del Potro, and No. 27 Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat the man who beat Rafael Nadal, Lukas Rosol, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (6).

Women joining Williams and Shvedova in the fourth round were defending champion Petra Kvitova, second-seeded Victoria Azarenka, recent French Open champions Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone, No. 21 Roberta Vinci and unseeded Tamira Paszek.

Good as each was Saturday, none can say they have ever been as good for a set as Shvedova was.

No woman has.

“I mean, that’s stunning. I’m, like, speechless,” Querrey said. “You could maybe understand first round, maybe a local wild card playing (Maria) Sharapova, just really nervous or something like that. But in a third round, that’s just shocking.”

According to the International Tennis Federation, only one other perfect set ever has been played since the Open era began in 1968: Bill Scanlon of the U.S. won all 24 points in the second set of a victory over Marcos Hocevar of Brazil at Delray Beach, Fla., in 1983.

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