After losing the second set, Sharapova walked off the court with a trainer and received an off-court medical timeout for what she later said was a hip strain.
“I mean, those aches and pains are expected when you spend a long time on the court,” she said, though she later added that knowing how such pain would have affected her movements was not “rocket science.”
For Cibulkova, it was a moment of exuberance. After shaking Sharapova’s hand, she bounced back toward her player box, leaping several times and pumping her fists.
Though Cibulkova has never been ranked in the top 10, her victory meant that she has now reached the quarterfinals at all four Grand Slam events.
Cibulkova said she didn’t see that Sharapova was visibly affected by the injury, and added that she thought Sharapova was trying to disrupt her momentum throughout the match.
“I didn’t see during the rallies,” Cibulkova said. “She was running, and, I don’t know. Of course I knew that she took the medical timeout, but she was trying to change my rhythm a lot of times during the games.“
It wasn’t the first time Cibulkova had beaten Sharapova at a Grand Slam, having previously routed her, 6-0, 6-2, in the quarterfinals of the 2009 French Open.
“This is, I would say, the most important thing,” Cibulkova said. “I went on the court, and I was more than 100 percent sure that I really can beat her. I can beat her on the big court, in the important match, you know, on the Grand Slam. I did it before, and I knew she knows me.”
Despite the draw having opened up with the exits of Williams and Sharapova, Cibulkova said she didn’t want to put pressure on herself to capitalize on the opportunity.
Cibulkova’s next opponent will be No. 11 Simona Halep, who won a marathon game at the start of the third set and eventually ran away with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 victory over No. 8 Jelena Jankovic to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Sharapova, who had been made to battle in extreme heat for three and a half hours to beat Karin Knapp, 3-6, 6-4, 10-8, said her ability to escape with less than her best tennis had run out.
“I haven’t been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through to the last two matches,” she said. “I tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well.”
Though she lost the third set fairly quickly, Sharapova had given herself a good chance to win the second after falling behind, 0-5, eventually digging back to 4-5 before missing several crucial returns of second serves that allowed Cibulkova to serve out the set on her third try.