Serena Williams won two of tennis’s four major tournaments last year. In 2014, she has yet to reach a quarterfinal.
The top-seeded American lost 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to France’s Alize Cornet two days ago in the third round of Wimbledon, her earliest exit since 2005 from the tournament she’s won five times. The last time Williams failed to reach a quarterfinal or better in any of the majors was 2006, when she missed Roland Garros and Wimbledon because of a knee injury.
“It’s never easy being in my shoes,” Williams said in a news conference after her defeat. “But you got to be ready. Just because you lose a match doesn’t mean you stop.”
Last season, Williams dominated the women’s tour, winning 11 tournaments including the French Open and the U.S. Open and losing only four matches. She started this season with a fourth-round loss to former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Australian Open. Last month, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza won 6-2, 6-2 in the second round of the French Open, handing Williams her most lop-sided defeat in a major.
“Australia, I just couldn’t play,” said Williams, who had struggled with a back injury in Melbourne and took some time off in April following an early loss in Charleston, South Carolina. “And Paris I played really bad. Here I actually thought I played better. I came into the tournament in better form.”
There was no play at the All England Club in southwest London yesterday because the Middle Sunday is traditionally a day of rest of the tournament.
The title aspirations of former champions Rafael Nadal of Spain, Roger Federer and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka, the current Australian Open champion, may be affected by the repercussions of a four-hour rain delay two days ago. That prompted tournament organizers to put the bottom half of the men’s singles draw back by one day, meaning they may have to play back-to-back matches in a best-of-five format tomorrow and the following day.
Worst affected are Wawrinka and American John Isner, the ninth seed, who both will be playing their third-round matches today, and if victorious, would also have to play back-to-back days. Nadal and Federer completed their third round two days ago.
Wawrinka today faces Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, while Isner plays Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Also today, 2004 champion Maria Sharapova of Russia -- who had been projected to meet Serena Williams in the quarterfinals -- plays Germany’s Angelique Kerber while defending champion Andy Murray meets South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
“I guess Stan’s section and Isner’s section, they have to play three straight days now,” Federer said in a news conference after he beat Colombian Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. “There could be 15 sets right there, long sets. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a bit of the unknown. These guys are all fit enough to handle it, but it can have an impact, no doubt.”
Williams’s serve let her down against 25th seed Cornet. The stroke, called “the best shot in tennis,” by 18-time major champion Chris Evert, has helped Williams win 17 major singles championships. Two years ago, she struck a record 102 aces on her way to her fifth Wimbledon title.
Against Cornet, Williams produced only three aces and had seven double faults. After losing the first set, Cornet changed tactics, using drop shots and forehand slices to disturb her opponent’s rhythm.
With Cornet two points away from the match at 5-2, 30-30 in the final set, the Frenchwoman wavered as a slow second serve was punished by Williams with a backhand return. It looked like Williams was back into the match when she broke on a forehand return winner. Cornet kept a cool head the second time she served for the biggest win of her life. At 5-4, 30-30, Williams changed her racket after she mistimed a forehand. She handed Cornet the match after she dumped a backhand volley into the net off yet another drop shot.
“She lost a little bit of her concentration in the beginning of the second set and I used it to come back in the match,” Cornet said in a news conference, after her win on Court No. 1. “Then the battle was on.”
Not Done Yet
Cornet plays French Open semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard of Canada today on Centre Court in her first fourth-round at Wimbledon.
“The next one is going to be very tough because Eugenie is playing amazing already since last year,” Cornet said. “She’s one of the top players of this season.”
Although Williams is the oldest top-ranked player on the women’s tour, the 32-year-old isn’t done yet. The U.S. Open, which she’s won the past two years, starts Aug. 25 in New York.
She said trying to tie Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 Grand Slam singles titles is “pretty significant” and that it was “something I’m obviously going to keep going for.”
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