Serena Williams suffered a shock third round defeat at Wimbledon – her earliest for eight years – in a three set thriller against France’s 24th seed Alizé Cornet on Saturday. Having seemingly been cruising to victory after taking the first set 6-1, Williams lost her rhythm and Cornet brilliantly stepped up to the mark. The 24 year old from Nice showed some excellent touches and power to dominate the next two sets 6-3, 6-4 to capture the most important victory of her career.
After the first set it was looking like for all money, the bookies’ favourite Williams – a five time Wimbledon champion –would have things wrapped up within no time at all. Despite struggling to hold her opening service game, she dominated Cornet by breaking serve twice to take the opening set 6-2. It was a classic example of the sheer power and relentlessness of Williams – although not playing at her best – in reeling off five consecutive games to put her firmly in the driving seat.
And at the beginning of the second set, one would have expected more of the same; or certainly Cornet’s head to drop. Not one bit, the Frenchwoman fought back brilliantly at the start of set two by immediately breaking her counterpart to take an early 2-0 lead. Rejuvenated, Cornet produced some scintillating forehand winners and incredible defence to stretch her lead to 5-0. Shots from Williams that, on any other day would be winners just kept on coming back from Cornet. The Niçois, perhaps succumbing slightly to nerves, failed to serve out the second set while leading 5-2, but after a Williams hold, managed to remain steady and take the second 6-3, forcing a tense decider.
The deciding set, so often Williams’ forte, proved only that Alizé Cornet finally has self-belief to close out important matches – and she did so with aplomb. Not welting under the closed-roof centre court heat or the ominous presence of Serena on the opposite site of the net, she broke early on in the third set, to take a lead she would never lose. Williams was all at sea and after committing 28 unforced errors throughout, a comeback win now seemed highly unlikely. And with the 24 year old Cornet’s reliable precision, there would only be one surely?
Cornet broke again to lead 5-2 with a chance to serve for the match. Once again, nerves coupled with Serena’s refusal to submit saw Williams break serve and hang on. Cornet, however caught on to a weak Williams serve at the start of her service game and found herself at 0-40 with three match points. She only needed one as a dainty and courageous drop shot return was netted unceremoniously by Williams. Cornet – having already beaten Williams earlier in 2014, in Dubai – captured her second win over the number one seed, (but her first in a Grand Slam). Falling to the floor, she kissed the turf and could scarcely believe what she had just accomplished.
“Three years ago I couldn’t play on grass, I was so bad, but now I have beaten Serena, the world number one on her own court” – Alizé Cornet.
Around the Courts
Bouchard on the Move
Alizé Cornet will now face Canadian rising star and 13th seed, Eugenie Bouchard. The 20 year old from Québec battled past German 20th seed Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-4. Petkovic, who has recently completed a comeback from a series of injury setbacks made too many errors to be a force against the power and style of Bouchard, who now looks to reach her third consecutive Grand Slam quarter final on Monday.
Supreme Sharapova takes no Riske
In the second match on Centre Court, 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova took on American Alison Riske. It was a match that, at times, promised to be close but Riske made small errors at crucial points of the first set. Sharapova, known for her power took advantage of this and ended up running away with the match 6-3, 6-0. Riske looked confident on her own serve early on but Sharapova’s presence put substantial pressure and asserted her tight grip on the match.
Kerber Through in Epic
Ninth seed and Eastbourne runner-up Angelique Kerber came back from losing the first set 6-2 to progress to the fourth round after a three set battle with last year’s semi finalist, Kirsten Flipkens. Flipkens, looking to repeat her impressive 2013 run raced away to an early lead. But Kerber is one of the tour’s hardest fighters and her never-give-up attitude showed as she counter-punched the Belgian to take the next two sets 6-3 and 6-2. She will now face Maria Sharapova for a place in the last eight.
Lisicki – Ivanovic Poised After Bad Light
The last game on Court One was – and due to play being suspended for bad light, still is – an intriguing match up between two in form players on grass. Ana Ivanovic of Serbia has finally returned to the sort of form that made her number one in the world and last year’s runner up Sabine Lisicki, who is somewhat of a grass court specialist. The German, nineteenth seed – and one of the favourites for the title – took an early 6-4 lead in a tight first set. The second set lasted just two games before play was halted. The match resumes on Monday poised at 6-4, 1-1 and is first on Court One.