LONDON — Trailing 5-4 in her first Wimbledon quarterfinal, Sloane Stephens already had saved two set points and was about to serve at deuce when a fairly nondescript match became anything but.
Raindrops were falling and Stephens' opponent, 2007 runner-up Marion Bartoli, was trying to persuade a tournament official the Court 1 grass was dangerously slick. Spectators were booing and derisively whistling, angry at the prospect of play being suspended.
Eventually, Bartoli got her way. They stopped. The court was covered. For the ensuing 2½ hours, no points were played. When they returned, Stephens — the last U.S. singles player at the All England Club this year — was completely out of sorts. Soon, she was out of the field, dropping a hard-to-believe 19 of her first 20 service points after the rain delay and losing 6-4, 7-5 Tuesday to France's Bartoli, one member of an altogether surprising semifinal quartet.
Asked whether Bartoli was employing gamesmanship by pushing for a delay at such a crucial moment, the 17th-seeded Stephens shrugged her shoulders and replied: “I don't know. I don't know. Who knows?”
The 15th-seeded Bartoli — who grips her racket with two hands off both wings, like her idol, Monica Seles — is seeking her first Grand Slam title. So are the other women left at the least predictable Wimbledon in memory: fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 20th-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, and 23rd-seeded Sabine Lisicki of Germany. It's the first time in the 45-year Open era that no previous major champion reached the women's semifinals at the All England Club.