The needle on Wimbledon’s shockometer, which has been lurching wildly for the last eight days, all but leapt off the scale here yesterday as Serena Williams suffered one of the most remarkable defeats in All England Club history. The defending champion and world No 1 had been a red-hot favourite to claim her sixth Wimbledon title but her run of 34 successive victories ended when she was beaten 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, the 23rd seed.
On a day when Andy Murray was left in the familiar position as Britain’s last remaining competitor in singles competition – the Scot reached his sixth successive Wimbledon quarter-final by beating Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets after Laura Robson had lost to Kaia Kanepi – Williams’ defeat was a bigger surprise than even those of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal last week. With Williams and Federer going out, this is the first time in the Open era that both defending champions have lost here before the quarter-finals.
“I didn’t play the big points well enough,” Williams said. “ Sabine has a massive, massive serve, so going in there you have to know that it’s definitely not going to be an easy match playing her at Wimbledon, especially on Centre Court.”
She added: “I felt that I was on the verge of winning. At that point I just was physically unable to hold serve. My first-serve percentage was going down. You have to be ready and willing to hold your serve. I wasn’t willing or able, probably didn’t even want to hold my serve today.”
Lisicki reached the semi-finals here two years ago but had lost both her previous meetings with Williams, who had begun the day as 1-4 favourite to win the title. Williams had won five tournaments in a row coming into Wimbledon, including last month’s French Open, and had not been beaten since February.
Murray recorded his fourth successive straight sets victory, beating Youzhny 6-4, 7-6, 6-1, but the Scot had a more difficult passage than in his earlier matches. Youzhny led 5-2 in the second set and 4-2 in the tie-break, but Murray held firm. In the quarter-finals he will meet Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.
Although Murray is only three wins away from winning the title, he insisted he would take one match at a time. “Serena Williams lost today,” he said. “She doesn’t lose particularly often. Roger and Rafa have lost. All these guys and girls are better players than me and have achieved a lot more than me, so if they can lose then so can I.”
Robson, who was attempting to become the first British woman to make the quarter-finals since 1984, left the court in tears after going down 7-6, 7-5 to Kanepi. The 19-year-old Briton had her chances, having been broken when serving for the first set. “I’m really, really disappointed,” Robson said. “I was putting a lot of pressure on myself.”