Serena Williams stunned by Bartoli
Serena Williams was sent tumbling out of Wimbledon as her bid to complete a hat-trick of titles came to an end at the hands of French ninth seed Marion Bartoli.
The effects of a challenging year which has seen Williams restricted to less than three weeks of action due to injury and serious illness finally caught up with the defending champion.
Williams looked rusty as her gutsy passage through the Wimbledon draw came to a shuddering halt in the fourth-round clash on Court One, Bartoli winning 6-3 7-6 (8/6).
Frequently her accuracy deserted her as she scooped a series of shots out of play, often because she had connected with the ball poorly.
The American's defeat means this is only the third year that the defending champion has failed to make the quarter-finals in the open era.
Fighting spirit enabled Williams to trade blows with Bartoli in an impossibly tight second set, but she was striving to stay on terms rather than dominating.
Bartoli was superb, playing with confidence, passion and poise to seal her first victory over the American in three contests.
It took five match points before Bartoli could finally land the killer blow as her nerve threatened to fail her, but she regained composure to seal a deserved victory.
The competitiveness of the match was evident from the start as Williams issued a mighty cry having buried a forehand winner to win the fourth game of the opening set.
But Bartoli was equally fired up and pumped her fist after hitting a sensational return on the way to securing two break points in the sixth.
Showing trademark courage, Williams save the first only to then scoop the second off court having put herself in position to save the point.
In contrast, there was little headway being made into Bartoli's serve as the impressive Frenchwoman took the next game without conceding.
Once more Williams sent the ball looping out of bounds after connecting poorly, bringing up set point which she saved.
But the irrepressible Bartoli, playing some wonderful tennis, was back on the offensive a heartbeat later with a screaming forehand.
Williams saved a third set point with an ace and she finally began to make inroads into Bartoli's serve in an epic ninth game.
It was Bartoli on the defensive as saved three break points, but she finished the game strongly, producing two aces to clinch a fascinating opening set.
Williams cheered winning a point in the ninth game of the second set as if she had clinched the match, but in the 11th she was in trouble for the first time in the set.
A long forehand gave away a break point that Bartoli won when her lob was sent spiralling out of play by a backpedalling Williams, who had to stretch to reach the high ball.
Serving for the match, Bartoli fired her eighth ace to bring up two match points but Williams reacted by producing a pair of fine returns.
Williams summoned upon all her fighting instincts to save a third match point before securing two break opportunities for herself, the second of which she won with a stunning return.
It would take a tie-break to settle the set, and the match.
A brilliant rally to decide the eighth point saw Williams using her power to expertly wrestle back the initiative having started on the back foot.
Bartoli fired an ace and then won another thrilling rally to secure her fourth match point, but the indomitable Williams struck an ace of her own.
Hitting the net on the next point, the American was thrust on to the back foot and this time Bartoli seized her chance by producing a serve that outwitted her opponent to seal a famous victory.
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