Venus Williams knocked out of Wimbledon
Venus Williams' bid for a sixth Wimbledon title came to a crashing halt in the quarter-finals today as Tsvetana Pironkova registered a major upset on Court One.
The unseeded Bulgarian crushed one of the pre-tournament favourites as she forced four breaks of the Williams serve to run out a comfortable 6-2 6-3 winner in one hour and 25 minutes.
The result continues the best ever performance by 22-year-old Pironkova at a grand slam, and she now progresses to Thursday's semi-finals.
Less than 24 hours after the men's world number 82, Yen-Hsun Lu, stunned last year's beaten finalist Andy Roddick, today it was the turn of the 82nd-ranked player in the women's game to create waves.
And like Lu, Pironkova admitted her run at SW19 was beyond her wildest expectations.
"Honestly it seems like a dream," she said.
"Coming here I never thought I would play that well and reach that part of the tournament.
"I'm extremely happy.
"I think I played pretty well today, I'm very happy with my game and she also did well, but I have one win over her and I actually thought that I could win."
Williams, the second seed, has been painfully aware of the threat posed by the young Bulgarian since Pironkova stunned her in the first round of the Australian Open in 2006.
And Pironkova, who has yet to win a title on the WTA Tour, again underlined her prowess by forcing two breaks of service on her way to taking the opener.
Pironkova, who beat 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli in the fourth round, won a remarkable point at 3-2 to prevent Williams holding serve, firing back a smash she had no right to get to before forcing the American into an error as the pair traded blows at the net.
A rattled Williams followed that by serving a double fault to concede break point, which Pironkova secured as her opponent fired wide.
It was difficult to tell which player was ranked 80 places above the other at the start of the seventh game, with Pironkova's precise groundstrokes working Williams around the court.
Two double faults at the start of the next game underlined the extent to which Williams' cage had been rattled, and when she slammed an easy forehand well wide, Pironkova had three set points.
A narrow Hawk-Eye call saved the first of those, while a second went begging when Pironkova returned long before deuce came up when the Bulgarian netted wastefully.
A fourth break point soon arrived though and this time Pironkova made no mistake with a firm winner down the line.
Errors were flowing from Williams at the start of the second set - the 30-year-old twice plunging the ball into the net with easy-looking volleys - although she did just enough to hold.
Williams' capitulation in the opener marked the first time she had conceded a set at this year's Championships, and she appeared determined to avoid a repeat as she managed an early break.
But Pironkova responded with a break-back point in the next, the 22-year-old again showing first-class agility as she chased down a drop shot before aiming a precise lob to the back of the court.
And she got the set back on serve when Williams netted, much to the delight of a Court One crowd who braced themselves for an upset.
Unforced errors remained a feature of Williams' performance as she hit her fourth and fifth double faults early in the sixth game.
A 10th break point soon followed for Pironkova and the writing was on the wall for Williams when she fired wide to fall 4-2 behind.
A lucky net cord secured a 5-2 lead in the next as the gods began to smile on Pironkova, and although Williams saved two match points in the next, the Bulgarian closed it out on her service game before dropping to the ground and soaking up the adulation of the appreciative Court One crowd.
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