WIMBLEDON: Four outsiders reach women’s semis

One day after shocking Serena Williams, Sabine Lisicki keeps her Wimbledon title hopes alive with a quarterfinals win vs. Kaia Kanepi.

One day after shocking Serena Williams, Sabine Lisicki keeps her Wimbledon title hopes alive with a quarterfinals win vs. Kaia Kanepi.

LONDON — The leading ladies have exited stage left, but the understudies kept this most volatile of Wimbledon scripts bubbling along on Tuesday to ensure a new name will be engraved on the trophy come Saturday.

Emerging from a quarterfinal lineup featuring women from eight different nations and with just two grand slam titles between them were Sabine Lisicki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and, most surprising of all, Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

Lisicki beat unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3 to prove that Monday’s shock victory over red-hot favorite Serena Williams was no flash in the pan.

Fourth seed Radwanska, last year’s runner-up, outlasted China’s Li Na in an absorbing three-set battle before the unorthodox Bartoli beat American upstart Sloane Stephens 6-4, 7-5, and Belgian Flipkens reached her first grand slam semifinal by defeating 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in three sets.

Lisicki, trying to become Germany’s first grand slam singles champion since Steffi Graf in 1996, will take on fourth seed Radwanska on Thursday while Flipkens, languishing at 262nd in the world a year ago, will play 2007 Wimbledon runner-up Bartoli.

After the demise of so many fancied players, opportunity is knocking loudly for one of them.

“It’s not exactly what we were planning on,” nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova said. “But it’s the best opportunity ever for one of them. It’s great we’ll have a new champion and it just shows that this sport can be so unpredictable.

“Serena was the favorite now we’ll have a new winner.”

Navratilova picked out Lisicki as her favorite to win the title, and the way the world No. 24 dismantled Kanepi a day after stunning five-time champion Williams, the momentum appears to be with the big-serving German who was a semifinalist two years ago.

Until Tuesday the giant-slayers have had short shelf lives with Steve Darcis, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Michelle Larcher de Brito — who took out Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova respectively — all failing to last another round.

Not so with Lisicki, who needed only 65 minutes for victory.

“I feel much fresher, fitter, better than two years ago,” said Lisicki, who lost to Sharapova in the 2011 semis.

“I was just as focused as (Monday) because … I knew it’s going to be tough after (Monday) to just keep the level up.

“But I think I did a very good job to go for my shots and play smart. It had to be a different game (Tuesday).”

Radwanska and former French Open winner Li produced two hours and 43 minutes of enthralling action on Center Court in a match that finished under cover after two rain interruptions.

Great improviser Radwanska, one of three Poles to reach the singles quarterfinals here, showed incredible resistance and Houdini-like escapology to win points that seemed beyond her during a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2 victory over the powerful Chinese.

She even played one contorted backhand winner from a sitting position during the heat of battle and needed eight match points to claim only her second win in nine grand slam quarterfinals.

“From the first point to the last it was a really great battle,” Radwanska, who saved four set points before winning the opening set, told reporters.

She needed an injury time out after Li stormed back from 4-2 down in the second set with some aggressive tennis and played the decider with bandages on both thighs.

“It’s been really tough,” she said. “My legs are a bit over-used but I’ll do everything in my power to be ready.”

A quarterfinal lineup lacking the A-listers of the women’s game had prompted some scornful headlines.

However, the novelty factor added to the intrigue, and fans flocking into the grounds reading up on the merits of Sloane Stephens and a Belgian nicknamed “Flipper” were provided with a refreshing variety of styles.

Stephens, the 17th seed, is being tipped as the natural successor to Williams, but Bartoli proved to be too much Tuesday.