Even when they are no longer here, the Williams sisters cast a long shadow. Yesterday, both the women who had the temerity to send them home found they had inadequate reserves to deal with their next opponents.
Their exit from the tournament, without a set between them yesterday, at least demonstrated that the women's game is not quite the turkey shoot it might have seemed, had one of them gone on to a tenth title in 12 years. But it was always a bit ambitious, to expect Serena and Venus Williams to perceive that bigger picture themselves. Asked to do so, Serena was withering. "Yeah, I'm super happy I lost," she said. "Go, women's tennis."
Venus Williams followed sister Serena out of Wimbledon after her 6-2 6-3 defeat by Tsvetana Pironkova ended American involvement in the women's singles.
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.
A question for you guys: what is it about Serena Williams and Wimbledon? It's something I can't explain. No way. Nobody can. It's a mystery why she loves it here so much – I'm not sure even she can explain it. But she sure does. Absolutely. This is her place.
Even a rusty saw can perform an amputation, and Venus Williams duly made short work of some of the more tenuous delusions that have preceded her return to her favourite theatre of operations. She took exactly an hour to hack her way past an obligingly limp first-round opponent, Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan, 6-3, 6-1. So much for the notion that even the Williams sisters, who have divided nine of the past 11 titles between them, might have ceded the pack a dangerous start this time.
It sometimes seems as if her fashion interests mean more to her than tennis. But not when Wimbledon comes around
A humbler Serena tells Clive White how the Williams are more valued after their absence
Serena's decision to join Venus in next week's Eastbourne field is also excellent news for Wimbledon
With no US players in either world top 10 for the first time, Paul Newman asks what went wrong – and if the decline is terminal
American women's tennis is being given an insight into the future in Miami this week – and the signs are not encouraging. The absence of the Williams sisters through injury is serving only to underline the lack of up-and-coming talent.
Venus Williams insisted that she still had plenty of tennis left in her, but there was an inescapable feeling here yesterday that the women's game was approaching the end of an era.
Centre Court crowd grow tired of American sisters' domination as world No 1 blows away Russian to retain crown
The Wimbledon files
All these anonymous women are suddenly in danger of making a name for themselves. As though goaded by constant charges of mediocrity and stagnation, the incognitos yesterday broke cover so boldly that three of tomorrow's semi-finalists have between them mustered one previous appearance in the last four of a Grand Slam. And those who conclude that the fourth, Serena Williams, can now help herself to her 13th such tournament, from a silver platter, do no justice to their collective courage and craft. Serena need only ask her own sister.
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.