Yaroslava Shvedova wins 'golden set'

WIMBLEDON, England -- Absolutely perfect -- 24 points played, 24 points won.

Can't be any better than wild-card entry Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazahstan was at the beginning of her third-round match at Wimbledon on Saturday, winning every single point in the 15-minute first set of what became a 6-0, 6-4 victory over French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy. It's the only "golden set" for a woman in the 44 years of professional tennis and she's the first player in a Grand Slam tournament to win every point of a set.

Of all the ways a point can be lost -- a double-fault, for example, or an opponent's ace; one ball that floats a half-inch wide or long or catches the tape of the net, say, or even a lucky shot off the other player's racket that somehow finds a line, etc., etc. -- none happened during Shvedova's 15 minutes of fame.

"Apparently, it's the biggest news of the day: I lost a set without winning a point. Unbelievable," the 10th-seeded Errani said. "She was impossible to play against. I don't even feel like I played terribly. She just was hitting winners from every part of the court."

The 65th-ranked Shvedova didn't even realize what was happening. Not until she was in the gym afterward, cooling down, when her coach pointed out the accomplishment.

"I had no idea. I was just playing every point and every game," said Shvedova, a 24-year-old who won two Grand Slam doubles titles in 2010 with Vania King of the U.S.

Shvedova did notice the way spectators at Court 3 applauded and yelled after Errani stopped the streak by taking the opening point of the second set.

"I was, like, 'What's going on?'" Shvedova said.

Now things figure to get a tad tougher. In the fourth round Monday, she'll face Serena Williams, whose 13 Grand Slam titles include four at the All England Club.

"Hopefully I'll be able to win a point in the set," Williams said, somehow keeping a straight face. "That will be my first goal, and then I'll go from there."

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.

Oddly enough, only once before had a woman won 23 consecutive points, the ITF said: Shvedova, of all people. She took a 5-0, 40-love lead in a match against Amy Frazier of the U.S. at Memphis in 2006 -- only to end up losing 1-6, 6-0, 6-0.

Imagine that! Shvedova said she couldn't remember that one.

Told about that wild turnaround involving Shvedova, Errani pointed out that she did take a 2-0 lead in the second set, then added with a wink and a smile: "I came close. It could have been 6-0, 6-0 the rest of the way for me."

She marveled about the play of doubles specialist Shvedova, who compiled a 35-6 edge in winners on the afternoon, showing off a high-risk, high-reward style that carried her to the French Open quarterfinals as a qualifier. Errani was particularly wowed by Shvedova's powerful serves, noting that one second serve came in at 117 mph.

"She served really hard," Errani said. "Hard, hard. It was like playing a Williams."

Shrugging off her record-setting setback, Errani said she figured losing a set that way was the same as dropping one 20-18 in a tiebreaker. A loss is a loss. Still, she wants to watch a replay of the set to try to figure out whether she could have done anything differently.

But Errani was pretty sure there wasn't.

"With a serve like that, with groundstrokes that strong," she said about Shvedova, "who knows? Maybe she'll win Wimbledon."

Williams might have something to say about that, too.