The first huge upset of the Wimbledon women's tournament, the overthrow of the title holder, Venus Williams, on Court Two, the notorious Graveyard of Champions, turned out to have been an accident waiting to happen.
The sixth-seeded Williams, having played just 10 matches in four tournaments on the way to Wimbledon because of an elbow injury, was disastrously short of match fitness, as she had shown in labouring through her second-round match with the veteran fellow-American Lisa Raymond, who served for the match before subsiding in three sets.
Yesterday she offered a similar opening to the 21-year-old Serb, Jelena Jankovic, and it was joyously seized for a 7-6 4-6 6-4 third-round victory which takes her into the last 16 and a match with the Russian ninth seed, Anastasia Myskina. Williams' total of 54 unforced errors was worse than England's extras in a one-day match, so she knows well enough where the blame lies for such an embarrassing setback. "There were definitely some things I could have done better," was as far as she would go in blaming herself, though at one stage her father and coach, Richard, called out: "What's wrong with you, Venus?"
Apart from being unable to keep the ball in court, there were other reasons, apparently, for the champion's poor showing. Her left wrist hurt and at 2-0 in the final set she complained that Jankovic was quick-serving her, which is tennis jargon for delivering the ball before an opponent is ready. "As soon as I got into position, before I could get down, she would start serving," said Williams. Asked if Jankovic was doing it deliberately, Venus backed off a little with the comment: "I just think maybe she plays at that pace."
Jankovic, the 29th seed, replied that she was just trying to play her game. "But after she told me I tried to wait until she was ready. I wasn't doing it on purpose, it's just the way I play the points, just my rhythm."
While Venus was unhappy to have been sent out to Court Two, Jankovic was happy to be in comparative obscurity, playing with a swollen eye after being hit in a Friday doubles. "So it doesn't matter I didn't play on Centre Court," she said.
Having held set points at 5-4 in the opening set, Williams lost the tie-break 10-8, but after levelling the match and going 2-0 up the third, she lost her way completely, walloping shots everywhere but between the lines.
Having broken Williams to lead 5-3, Jankovic served for the match. "I was just so nervous," she admitted. "The racket felt like it weighed 30lb, it was just such a strange feeling." So the nervous Serb was broken in turn, but bounced back at once, courtesy of more Williams catastrophes. Even now Jankovic cast away three match points before Venus double-faulted to offer her a fourth and then netted a lame forehand. So now Shenay Perry is the only American woman left in the women's singles, but two from Serbia, Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic remain.
Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, sailed through the third-round as easily as the first two, disposing of Amy Frazier, of the United States, 6-3 6-2. the Russian has now lost just 11 games in three rounds.
For the 33-year-old Frazier, there was the consolation of setting two women's records. This was her 18th Wimbledon and 70th Grand Slam. Frazier never looked a problem for the fourth seed, but Sharapova said she got "a little bit confused" by Frazier's tendency to alternate between fizzing serves and double-faults. "Kind of got me out of my rhythm a little bit," she said.
"I got a pretty good test today because she's a pretty solid grass court player, likes to hit her shots. I had to work for that match. I definitely feel confident going into the fourth round [where she will face Italy's Flavia Pennetta]."Reuse content