Unheralded Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan stole the show at the Rogers Cup on a day that marked the ousting of one of the sport's biggest stars, along with a couple of newly-minted Grand Slam champs.
Voskoboeva, ranked 135th in the world, dispatched No. 5 seed Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-5 in a thrilling match at Rexall Centre.
The 26-year-old, who ousted Marion Bartoli and Flavia Pennetta to earn her date with Sharapova, beat the Russian star with soft drop shots and had the veteran chasing balls to the baseline all game long.
Sharapova became the latest casualty of the Rogers Cup women's draw, hours after No. 6 seed Li Na bowed out of third-round action with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to No. 10 seed Samantha Stosur of Australia. Li became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title two months ago at the French Open.
And No. 11 Andrea Petkovic of Germany joined Stosur in the quarter-finals after cruising by seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2. Kvitova won Wimbledon last month to claim her first Grand Slam title.
Two months after powering her way to title on the clay courts at Roland Garros, Li Na spent Thursday trying to rediscover the form that propelled her to superhero status in China.
"I felt like a junior on the court," Li said.
Li was playing her first game of the week after being handed a bye through the first round and then a walkover victory when Shuai Peng of China withdrew with an injury.
The rust was obvious as she fired numerous returns long on another blustery day at Rexall Centre, eventually bowing out when she smacked a forehand into the net.
"It's always tough after a break to come back for the first match, because I had six or seven weeks that I didn't play a tournament," Li said. "At the beginning of the match I didn't even know what I should do on the court, not like during the clay-court season."
The Li-Stosur match was held during a power outage at the venue — a Toronto Hydro problem, according to Rogers Cup organizers. The main scoreboard remained dark for just over an hour, while the corner scoreboard periodically worked, powered by a backup generator.
The lack of electricity was mirrored by a match that was absent of any sizzle, as the 27-year-old Stosur, who has two career singles titles, used her powerful serve to topple Li. And for the second straight day, the wind was factor, swirling around the stadium at 25 kilometres an hour, wreaking havoc for the players and providing a chilly match for spectators.
"If you watched the match, everyone can see, she has a huge, big serve ... Not a normal girl serve. It's tough for me to return," Li said. "Also today was so, so windy, I couldn't use my serve a lot in the first serves."
The 29-year-old Li defeated Italian Francesca Schiavone in the French Open final, the most-watched tennis match in China's history, and returned home to a hero's welcome. But sitting in the post-match press conference, black therapeutic tape wrapped around her right knee, Li deflected questions about her Grand Slam victory.
"French Open in over," she said bluntly. "Of course it was a good experience, exciting moment for me, but right now I should focus on the hard-court season."
The loss of Li comes a day after No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was ousted. Also gone is second-seeded Kim Clijsters, who withdrew earlier this week due to an abdominal injury, while former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic and No. 9 seed Marion Bartoli were dispatched in their opening matches.
No Canadian players remain in the singles draw.
Petkovic said she was surprised by how one-sided her match with Kvitova was, but pointed out that Toronto marked her opponent's first tournament since her heady week at Wimbledon's All England Club.
The 21-year-old Kvitova beat Sharapova in the final at Wimbledon last month.
"I was expecting a really tough match," said the 23-year-old Petkovic. "But the conditions were not easy at all, they were really tricky. And she didn't play for so long, I know how I feel the first two matches when I come back after one or two months.
"And her tennis, with her very flat strokes in those kinds of conditions is really, really tough."
Kvitova, who's won four titles this year, admitted to feeling flat after taking a couple of weeks off after Wimbledon.
"I'm ready for the tournament but I have to play more matches," Kvitova said. "I'm OK, I'm not too sad. Of course I lost, but I'm OK and I know it's preparation for the U.S. Open and still I have to work."
Petkovic said she's enjoying this particular trip to Canada, and in fact owns a Sidney Crosby hockey jersey.
"Sidney Crosby, he's also born in the same year as me, '87. I actually saw when Canada beat the USA in the Olympic Games final and he shot the golden goal," she said.
Jie Zheng of China faced American Serena Williams in the late match.
2011/08/11 | Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press