The 23-year-old Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova delivered yesterday's big upset in the women's singles draw, knocking out the Russian second seed Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-3 on Court Two, to exact revenge for her defeat in last year's three-set semi-final.
Despite reaching the last four last year, and beating Venus Williams on the way, this is only the second time that Pironkova has gone beyond the second round in a Grand Slam.
Zvonareva's exit is all the more surprising given her excellent Grand Slam form in the last 12 months. The Muscovite, currently ranked No 3 in the world, also reached last year's US Open final, which she lost to Kim Clijsters, and got to the semi-final at this year's Australian Open.
Earlier on the same court, top seed Caroline Wozniacki advanced comfortably into the third round, but after doing so offered a cautious endorsement of Serena Williams' complaint that the leading women, unlike their male counterparts, are too often made to play away from the main two show courts. "Obviously I think I deserve to play on one of the bigger courts," said the world No 1, following a routine 6-1, 6-3 victory over Virginie Razzano of France. "Hopefully in my next match I'll have the chance to play on one of the bigger ones. We'll see."
The 20-year-old Dane was rarely stretched as she improved her record against Razzano to played five, won five, and made only a single unforced error. If there was cause for concern it was only that she required five match points to wrap things up, and she indicated that she would need to be more ruthless in the next round, in which she is due to play the naturalised Australian Jarmila Gajdosova. Coincidentally, it was Gajdosova who defeated Razzano in the last Grand Slam, the exceptionally poignant encounter at Roland Garros, eight days after Razzano's fiancé and former coach, Stéphane Vidal, had died of a brain tumour.
Wozniacki was asked afterwards whether Razzano's personal tragedy had played on her mind during the match. "On the court it's a game," she said. "You compete and you don't really think about what's going on on the other side. But of course, if she would need help or anything, we're always here. We're all humans, so we want to help out."
The Dane added that, much as she loves Wimbledon, and enjoys playing on grass, she doesn't consider it to be the surface most likely to yield a first Grand Slam. The five-times Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, however, takes a very different view of the All England Club's immaculate lawns, and had a much easier ride yesterday than she was given in the first round by the 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm.
Williams beat Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain 6-0, 6-2, and must next face the woman who knocked her out in the quarter-finals last year, Pironkova. "I don't feel I competed well," the No 23 seed said of last year's defeat. "Regardless of how I play, I know I'll be competing this time."
Like her younger sister, Williams has spent a lot of the past year nursing injuries, and admitted that it is hard to regain the intensity needed in the heat of competition. "I've been really focusing on focusing, actually," she said, somewhat gnomically.
The ninth seed Marion Bartoli also needed focus, surviving three match points to beat Lourdes Dominguez Lino 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. The unseeded Spaniard served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but could not overcome the French No 1, who was runner-up here to Venus Williams in 2007.
Elsewhere, two other seeds bit the dust. The former French and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded 12th, was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 by 21-year-old Carolina Wickmayer of Belgium. Wickmayer thus reaches the fourth round here for the first time, and it is a significant scalp. Kuznetsova has never gone beyond the quarter-final stage, but has reached the last eight three times, in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Meanwhile, Ksenia Pervak, a left-hander from Russia, put an end to the hopes of Andrea Petkovic, the 11th seed from Germany, winning 6-4, 7-6.