Alize Cornet, after defeating Serena Williams, on Saturday
London: Top seed Serena Williams’s challenge for a sixth Wimbledon singles title fizzled out with a shock 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat by France’s Alize Cornet on Saturday.
The 32-year-old American seemed in a hurry to make up for lost time following a long rain delay when she raced through the first set, but when Cornet began to dig in, her powerful game began to crumble in front of a stunned crowd on Court One.
The 24-year-old Cornet, who had already beaten Williams this year, refused to fade away and with her opponent looking uncomfortable moving on the grass, she took the second set with some accurate shot-making.
“I just cannot believe it,” Cornet, who has reached the last 16 of a Grand Slam for only the second time in 34 attempts, said in a courtside interview.
In other matches, Rafael Nadal again offered a chink of light to an opponent on his way to the last 16 at a gloomy Wimbledon, but another former champion Maria Sharapova was taking no chances under the Centre Court roof.
Seven-time champion Roger Federer had it pretty easy, beating 35th-ranked Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
The fourth-seeded Federer saved the only two break points he faced and was never really tested. Federer, who owns 17 Grand Slam titles, lost in the second round at the All England Club in 2013, ending his streak of reaching the quarter finals at 36 consecutive major tournaments.
For the third match in a row Spaniard Nadal found himself a set in arrears against an inspired adversary, this time in the form of Kazakhstan’s 63rd-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin, before switching on the after-burners to romp home 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.
With play suspended on every court apart from Centre because of persistent rain, Sharapova then won 11 games in a row after a sluggish start against American Alison Riske, roaring into the second week with a 6-3, 6-0 victory.
Among those watching Nadal and Sharapova continue their title assaults was former England soccer captain David Beckham, one of numerous high-profile sportsmen and women occupying the Royal Box.
Nadal’s matches have followed a familiar pattern.
Against Slovakian Martin Klizan and Czech Lukas Rosol he was overpowered in the opening set, so it was no surprise to witness him slip behind against Kukushkin, one of three men in the third round with a female coach - in his case his wife.
Despite losing the tiebreak there was never the same sense of danger as in the previous round against the hard-hitting Rosol who knocked out the Spaniard two years ago.
Once 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal broke early in the second set Kukushkin’s belief drained away and there was only ever going to be one outcome.
“When I played the first set, I said that maybe the roof here in Wimbledon is not good for me,” said the sun-loving Nadal whose 64 career titles include only two indoors. “I don’t like to be in closed places only with lights, but I think I played a great match. It didn’t affect me a lot,” he told reporters.
On the Indian front, Sania Mirza and partner Cara Black lost their women’s doubles match against Lucie Safarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-7, 4-6 in the Round of 32. (Reuters)