Wimbledon 2013: Serena Williams tips Sloane Stephens to replace her as All England Club champion

 

Serena Williams dressed it up as a perfectly predictable result but her Wimbledon exit today caused huge shockwaves at the All England Club and left the title up for grabs.

The world number one has backed Sloane Stephens to replace her as All England Club champion but all eight women left in the draw will now fancy their chances of glory on Saturday.

After winning 34 matches on the trot, few predicted the defending champion's exit at the hands of Sabine Lisicki this afternoon.

Priced by several bookmakers as a 10/1 long shot to win the last-16 clash, the German world number 24 won a thrilling Centre Court duel 6-2 1-6 6-4.

"Wow - blown away by Lisicki," nine-time champion Martina Navratilova wrote on Twitter.

It was the first time Williams had tasted defeat since playing Marion Bartoli in Dubai in February.

But the 31-year-old said: "It's not a shock. She plays really good on grass.

"She 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.

"It's definitely not a shock. I just need to do better."

Lisicki's reaction - she shed a tear in her post-match interview - would have showed Williams, had she been watching, how unexpected the result was.

For the 31-year-old five-time winner of the Wimbledon singles title, this was a day where she flunked her lines, and that was her assessment of the job too.

"I think I had opportunities in the first set. I mean, I had so many opportunities. I made so many errors. I hit so many balls in the net," Williams said.

"She definitely played a super aggressive game. When you're playing and you have absolutely nothing to lose, it's like you can really play with so much freedom and so loose. That's how she played today."

During a terrific career, there have also been a few rough years for Williams and she became frustrated when asked if this was her toughest exit to date.

"No," Williams responded sharply. "I feel like I had an extremely tough draw today.

"I feel like of all the round-of-16 matches, I probably had the toughest one. I don't know if you've heard, but she's a great grass-court player.

"You know, c'mon guys, let's get with it. She's excellent. She's not a pushover. She's a great player.

"To play this match in any Wimbledon on the fourth round, it's not an easy draw. So it's definitely difficult."

Williams' exit would have been privately welcomed by every other player with an eye on the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Lisicki, Petra Kvitova and Li Na are now among the favourites to take the crown, although Williams' choice is compatriot Stephens.

The only American left in the Wimbledon singles draw, the 20-year-old overcame Monica Puig 4-6 7-5 6-1 today and has been tipped for a big future.

"I think Sloane has a really good chance of winning," Williams said. "She has a great draw."

There has been suggestion of some needle between the pair, but it was not apparent as Williams threw her support behind the Floridian.

"I think she can take it," Williams said. "It would be really nice to see her win."

PA

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