Wil­liams no longer Wim­ble­don won­der woman

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - Howard Fen­drich

All of a sud­den, Ser­ena Wil­liams is fail­ing to stick around for long at Grand Slam tour­na­ments.

Be­trayed by her back­hand and, more sur­pris­ingly, her usu­ally dan­ger­ous serve, five­time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Wil­liams lost to 25th-seeded Al­ize Cor­net of France 1-6 6-3 6-4 yes­ter­day in the third round at the All Eng­land Club.

It’s Wil­liams’ ear­li­est Wim­ble­don exit since 2005, when she was also beaten in the third round. She won the ti­tle in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

‘‘I don’t know how I did it,’’ Cor­net said. ‘‘Just with my heart – and the help of the crowd.’’

The No 1-ranked and No 1seeded Wil­liams owns 17 Grand Slam ti­tles, but she now has de­parted be­fore the quar­ter­fi­nals at four of the past five ma­jor tour­na­ments.

That in­cludes fourth-round losses at Wim­ble­don last year and at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, and a sec­ond-round loss at the French Open in May.

Of Wil­liams’ five to­tal losses in all tour­na­ments this sea­son, two have come against Cor­net, who also beat the 32-year-old Amer­i­can at the Dubai Cham­pi­onships in Fe­bru­ary.

Still, this re­sult was rather un­ex­pected, given their com­par­a­tive Grand Slam ca­reers. Cor­net never had been past the third round at the All Eng­land Club, and she only once be­fore got to the fourth round of a ma­jor – way back at the 2009 Aus­tralian Open.

Yes­ter­day’s match was halted at 1-1, deuce in the open­ing set be­cause of rain that dis­rupted play around the grounds most of the day. Af­ter a de­lay of about 41⁄ hours, Wil­liams was ter­rific when they re­sumed, reel­ing off five games in a row to grab the first set.

And then, quick as can be, things changed dra­mat­i­cally.

Cor­net be­gan putting shots right where she wanted them, while Wil­liams had trou­ble find­ing the mark. In all, Wil­liams wound up with 29 un­forced er­rors – 11 more than Cor­net. ‘‘She helped me a lit­tle bit,’’ Cor­net said, ‘‘be­cause she made some mis­takes.’’

Two par­tic­u­lar types of strokes trou­bled Wil­liams – her serve, widely re­garded as the best in women’s ten­nis, let her down re­peat­edly, with seven dou­ble-faults, and her back­hand, which pro­duced 12 of those un­forced er­rors. Cor­net did not have a sin­gle un­forced er­ror off her back­hand.

In the third set, Cor­net took four games in a row to lead 5-2, but she got bro­ken while serv­ing for the match the first time. Given a sec­ond chance, she stead­ied her­self, and on match point, de­liv­ered a per­fect drop shot.

When Wil­liams net­ted the re­sponse, Cor­net pounded her chest with her fist. Then she hopped around Court 1, be­fore kneel­ing to kiss the grass.

Cor­net had been 0-13 against top-20 op­po­nents in Grand Slam matches. Now she’s 1-13.

It was by far the most sig­nif­i­cant – and sur­pris­ing – out­come on a day full of starts and stops thanks to the wet weather.

Three other past Wim­ble­don cham­pi­ons won on Cen­tre Court, where the roof was closed and soc­cer star David Beck­ham was in the Royal Box: Rafael Nadal, Roger Fed­erer and Maria Shara­pova.

For his third match in a row this year at Wim­ble­don, twotime cham­pion Nadal dropped the first set be­fore com­ing back to win, this time beat­ing 63rdranked Mikhail Kukushkin of Kaza­khstan 6-7 6-1 6-1 6-1.

‘‘From the very first points of the sec­ond set, he im­proved a lot. All his shots just started to be much more hard, pow­er­ful and more ag­gres­sive,’’ Kukush- kin said. ‘‘It was like a dif­fer­ent player.’’

Shara­pova, the 2004 cham­pion, was up next in the main sta­dium, and she, too, over­came a slow start. But af­ter fall­ing be­hind 3-1, she won 11 con­sec­u­tive games for a 6-3 6-0 vic­tory over 44th-ranked Ali­son Riske of the United States.

As for Fed­erer, who has col­lected seven of his 17 ma­jor tro­phies at the All Eng­land Club, there re­ally was never any trou­ble spot. He needed less than 75 min­utes to elim­i­nate 35th-ranked San­ti­ago Gi­raldo of Colom­bia 6-3 6-1 6-3 and hasn’t lost a set through three matches. ‘‘I’m very pleased. It’s al­ways good to keep on mov­ing on,’’ Fed­erer said. ‘‘Last year, I lost in the sec­ond round, so I’m aware of the tough draws you get or the dan­ger of cer­tain play­ers on this sur­face.’’

Sec­ond win: Al­ize Cor­net of France cel­e­brates af­ter de­feat­ing Ser­ena Wil­liams.

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