Five-time champion and top seed Serena Williams suffered her earliest Wimbledon exit since 2005, losing in three sets to France’s Alize Cornet.
Cornet’s 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory was her second over No. 1 Williams this year following a win in Dubai. The 24th ranked Cornet made 11 fewer unforced errors than her opponent.
Williams, 32, lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open and the second round of the French Open. The last time she failed to reach the quarterfinal of any of the four Grand Slams was in 2006.
“I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me,” Williams told reporters at a news conference. “Every time I step on the court I have to be 100 times better. If I’m not then I’m in trouble.”
Williams and Cornet had to sit out a four-hour rain delay that led to the cancellation of some matches.
The American looked in control after a commanding first set, but her usually dominant serve let her down. She managed only three aces in the match, equal to her opponent, compared to 16 in the first round and eight in the second.
“I can’t say that I played my best tennis today,” said Cornet, whose run to the fourth round is her best performance in eight Wimbledon appearances. “She lost a little bit of her concentration at the beginning of the second set, and I used it to come back into the match.”
She’ll play Eugenie Bouchard, the only player to reach both Grand Slam semifinals this year, in the next round after the Canadian beat Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-3, 6-4.
Third seed Simona Halep of Romania also advanced, making her the highest-seeded woman left in the tournament after No. 2 Li Na lost on Thursday. Williams’s sister and doubles partner, five-time champion Venus, was eliminated from the grass-court tournament yesterday.
In the men’s draw, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal overcame an opening-set loss for the third match in a row, while Roger Federer also made the last 16 with a straight-sets win.
Nadal, playing in the third round for the first time since 2011, initially struggled against Mikhail Kukushkin, the No. 63 from Kazakhstan. The Spaniard eventually eased to a 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 win in two hours, 33 minutes.
Seven-time winner Federer beat Colombian Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 on Centre Court, which has been covered by a retractable roof since 2009. The Swiss 32-year-old hasn’t lost a set at this year’s championship and may meet Nadal in the semifinals.
Nadal, whose career has been interrupted by injuries, said he’s in good physical condition even though he slipped on the first point of the match.
“In the first week the court’s a little bit more slippery than in the second week,” he said. “The important thing is that I finished all the matches better than I started.”
Bidding for a 15th Grand Slam, Nadal is on course for a possible final against world No. 2 Novak Djokovic. It would be his fourth straight appearance in a tennis Grand Slam final.
Next up for Nadal is Australian Nick Kyrgios, at 19 the youngest man in the singles draw, who won Wimbledon’s first third-round match between wild cards against Jiri Vesely.
Djokovic of Serbia won his third-round match yesterday, overcoming a painful fall on his left shoulder. An ultrasound showed no significant damage, Djokovic later told reporters.
Fifth-seed Maria Sharapova, who won Wimbledon a decade ago as a 17-year-old, beat American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0 to book her spot in the last 16. Riske, ranked No. 44, won the first two games before being out-grunted and out-hit by the six-foot, two-inch (1.88 meters) Russian.
Sharapova is in good form after winning the French Open this month, her fifth Grand Slam singles title. In her three matches at this year’s Wimbledon she’s only conceded seven games.