Serena Williams dumped out of Wimbledon
For the third consecutive grand slam since winning her 17th major in New York, Serena Williams has started as the overwhelming title favourite, but gone no further than the fourth round. This time, in the third, against world No.25 Alize Cornet, the top seed made her earliest Wimbledon exit since 2005.
With a 1-6 6-3 6-4 scoreline, a dominant first set provided no hint of what was to come for the top seed. As Cornet found her forehand and utilised her dropshot, Williams struggled with her return, eventually playing subdued, tentative tennis against the Frenchwoman who had beaten her earlier in the season in Dubai.
But this is the All England Club, Williams' "home", as Cornet later called it, having kissed the grass on court one to celebrate her first victory over a top 20 player in 14 grand slam attempts. ''I just can't believe it,'' said Cornet. "I can't believe that I did it myself - wow, me.''
Williams was at a loss to explain the turnaround, having endured a three-plus-hour rain delay after just a couple of games in the first set. "I tried, and it just didn't work out,'' said the American, who had conceded just five games in her first two rounds. "I think I made a few errors too many and she was going for her shots. She played really well today.
"I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me... So I just have to always, every time I step on the court, be a hundred times better. If I'm not, then I'm in trouble.''
For the first time in eight years, neither Williams sister will feature in the second week of a tournament they have won five times each. Serena Williams lost to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open, and was stunned 6-2, 6-2 by Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in her heaviest ever defeat at a major at the French Open last month.
"Australia, I just couldn't play. And Paris I played really bad. Here I actually thought I played better,'' Williams said. " I came into the tournament in better form. You know, I thought I was doing pretty decent. I think I'm going to have to watch this film and see what I can do better and what went wrong.''
Maria Sharapova safely advanced to the fourth round past American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0 on the covered centre court.
Sharapova had lost only four games in her first two rounds, which makes seven in three, and Riske won only nine points for the duration of a one-sided second set. Roger Federer cruised again, past Santiago Giraldo, and into a rematch with his US Open conqueror, Tommy Robredo, who beat 15th seed Jerzy Janwowicz.
And as rain lashed the All England Club on a soggy Saturday, Mikhail Kukushkin initially threatened to play another kind of spoiling role. Under the centre court roof, the world No.63 became the third successive player to take the first set from No.1 Rafael Nadal, but was also the third to eventually perish under the almighty force of the Spaniard's will.
Nadal has not been the most emphatic of the Big Four contenders, but he is still managing to find a way, as he did from a more dicey position against Lukas Rosol, when the Czech had a point to take a two-set lead.
Kukushkin played a fine first set, and outstanding tiebreak but the outcome seemed inevitable thereafter, as Nadal worked his way on top and heaved himself into the fourth round 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. By the end, the second seed might just have played himself into some very decent form ahead of his clash with Australian Nick Kyrgios.
"I am playing well. I would be lying if I say another thing,'' said the nine-time French Open champion. "I lost 7-6, and then I won in straight sets and with a positive score. The feeling was great. I played aggressive. I had great movements. Some ones in difficult positions, I was able to come back on the point. Then when I had chances with the forehand, I was able to play aggressive. That's what I did.''
Despite not all third round matches being completed, the tournament will now take its traditional Sunday rest. The balance will be completed on Monday, causing a rejig of the scheduling early in the second week, and the requirement for some players to compete on three consecutive days
"It's a bit of the unknown,'' said Federer, after winning indoors 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. "I mean, these guys are all fit enough to handle it, but it can have an impact, no doubt. I'm sure everybody would have liked to get their match done today. So I don't consider myself lucky or anything like that. But it was definitely good to play today, to finish today, and to stay in a normal sort of schedule now.''