by Stephen Wilson
WIMBLEDON, England (AP)—Venus and Serena Williams were eliminated in the fourth round of Wimbledon on Monday, the first time in five years that neither sister will play in the quarterfinals at the All England Club.
Defending champion and four-time winner Serena was the first to go, beaten 6-3, 7-6 (6) by Marion Bartoli of France, cutting short the American’s return to Grand Slam tennis after nearly a year out with serious health problems.
|DEFENDING CHAMP ELIMINATED—Serena Williams returns a shot to France’s Marion Bartoli during their match at at Wimbledon, June 27. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
Older sister and five-time champion Venus was ousted 6-2, 6-3 by Tsvetana Pironkova—the exact same score of the Bulgarian’s win in last year’s quarterfinals.
“Definitely not our best day,” Venus said. “I think we both envisioned seeing this day going a little bit different.”
Venus and Serena have won nine of the last 11 titles at Wimbledon, and have faced each other in four finals.
In 2006, Venus lost in the third round and Serena missed the tournament. This is the first year that, when both sisters were in the draw, both lost before the quarterfinals.
The last time the sisters lost on the same day at a Grand Slam was in 2008, when they fell in the third round at the French Open.
“Obviously it’s not something planned,” Venus said. “We rarely lose on the same day.”
After winning last year’s Wimbledon, Serena missed nearly a year after foot surgery and subsequent blood clots in her lungs. She returned two weeks ago at Eastbourne for the first time since then. Venus also returned at Eastbourne after a five-month layoff with a hip injury.
Venus was clearly off the top of her game Monday, committing 16 unforced errors and converting only one of four break points. She was broken four times.
“I didn’t seem to get the ball in,” Venus said. “She took her opportunities. I just didn’t put the ball in the court, simple as that. Unfortunately, I seem not to have my good days against her. But she played well.”
The 33rd-seeded Pironkova, who lost in the semifinals here last year to eventual runner-up Vera Zvonareva, played steady tennis against Venus and never cracked.
“I beat her two times, two consecutive years—it feels amazing to play such a champion on this legendary court,” the Bulgarian said after holding serve and stroking a backhand winner down the line on her second match point. “When I come here I just feel so relaxed. I really like the atmosphere here.”
Serena saved four match points before the ninth-seeded Bartoli closed out the contest by hitting a service winner into the corner. It was Serena’s earliest exit at Wimbledon since a third-round loss in 2005.
“I never came here thinking I would lose,” she said. “That’s my attitude. You win some and you lose some. Today just happened to be the one that slipped under me.”
But Serena said she was satisfied getting as far as she did after such a long time away from the game.
“I think I did really well just being able to come back and play and win some matches, and just really play tough,” she said. “Even today I lost, but I was able to kind of hang in there and play tough. And I can only get better. That can potentially be really scary, because I can only go up from here and I can just do so much more.”
Bartoli made the Wimbledon final in 2007, losing to Venus.
Serena had 20 unforced errors Monday to go with 29 winners, and managed to convert only one of five break points. Bartoli served 10 aces, two more than Williams, and kept down her errors to 17.
It was the first time Bartoli has beaten the American after straight-set defeats in their previous two matches.
“Beating Serena is almost like a dream come true,” Bartoli said. “Even though she didn’t play for almost one year, she’s probably one of the greatest champions in women’s tennis.