For the first time since 2006, there won’t be a Williams sister in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Defending champion Serena was ousted in the fourth round by France’s Marion Bartoli 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) on Court 1 today. Then her sister and five-time champion Venus lost on Centre Court to Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-3.
The sisters have dominated tennis’s All England Club for a decade, taking nine of the past 11 singles titles. They also won four doubles championships together on the London grass courts.
“You win some and you lose some,” four-time champion Serena, the pre-tournament favorite even after almost a year out with illness and injury, said in a news conference. “Today just happened to be the one that slipped under me.”
It’s the fourth time the siblings have lost in a major at the same stage. They exited the 2008 French Open in the third round, and the 2008 Australian Open in the quarterfinals. They went out in the last eight in Paris in 2004, according to the WTA Tour.
“Definitely not our best day,” Venus Williams said in a news conference after Pironkova beat her at Wimbledon for the second straight year. “We both envisioned seeing this day going a little bit different.”
Serena was playing only her second tournament after missing 49 weeks with a foot injury that required two operations and then treatment for blood clots in her lungs. She was trying to equal Germany’s Steffi Graf in winning three straight Wimbledon titles. It was her earliest loss there since the third round in 2005, and she’s the first reigning women’s champion to lose before the quarterfinals since France’s Amelie Mauresmo in 2007.
‘Tried Not to Watch’
Venus had heard about Serena’s defeat shortly before starting her match against Pironkova. It was played in front of Prince William, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge in the royal box.
“I tried not to watch the match,” said Venus, 31. “It’s a little distracting. My loss today is just my own doing. But I feel positive because I’m still playing great tennis and my game’s just going better and better, obviously except for this round,” said the American, who missed five months this season with hip and abdominal injuries.
Moving Serena Williams all over the court from the start with her ground strokes, the double-handed Bartoli took the first set 6-3.
“I felt like I could come back,” Serena said. “No matter what, when I lose a first set, I’m automatically planning on what I’m going to do in the third set, not even the second. So I never doubted myself. I just thought, OK, I’m just going to win these couple points and pull out the tiebreaker, which didn’t quite happen.”
In the second set, both players held serve until 5-5, when Bartoli broke as the American hit a backhand volley wide on breakpoint. In the next game, Williams saved three match points. In the tie-break, the American saved a fourth match point with an ace at 5-6. Serving for the match leading 7-6, Bartoli moved to the quarterfinals with a service winner.
“Especially on the match point in the tiebreak, that serve definitely helped me,” Bartoli said.
Bartoli, runnerup to Venus in 2007, produced 10 aces, two more than Williams. Bartoli had 21 winners and 17 unforced errors. The American had 29 winners and made 20 mistakes.
“She played well,” Serena said. “She should always play like this, and she would be in the top five at minimum. It’s like, Wow, where is this player throughout the rest of the year?”
Venus Williams couldn’t explain her loss against Pironkova, who’d entered Wimbledon having won just four matches in 14 tournaments.
“I missed some overheads and swinging volleys, shots I never miss, approach shots,” Venus said. “That wasn’t especially encouraging. It’s just not always easy to find the rhythm right away. I just couldn’t do it today.”
Venus made 16 unforced errors, while Pironkova had nine. The American hit 20 winners, 10 more than her 33rd-ranked opponent.
Both Williams sisters said they’re looking forward to the American hard-court season, which ends with the U.S. Open at the end of August.
“I haven’t played on the hard courts in what feels like years,” Serena said. “It’s clearly my favorite surface.”
She’s won the year’s final Grand Slam event three times, while Venus has taken the title twice.
“I did really well, just being able to come back and play and win some matches, and just really play tough,” Serena said. “Today I lost, but I was able to kind of hang in there and play tough. I can only get better, and that can potentially be really scary because I can only go up from here.”