POSTED: 10:30 a.m. HST, Jun 27, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 5:51 p.m. HST, Jun 27, 2011
WIMBLEDON, England >> Venus and Serena Williams were eliminated in the fourth round of Wimbledon today, 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.
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."
Also knocked out was top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who fell 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 to No. 24 Dominika Cibulkova in the Dane's latest failed attempt to win her first Grand Slam title.
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."
With 2004 champion Maria Sharapova of Russia among those advancing Monday, it marks the first time since 1913 that all eight women's Wimbledon quarterfinalists are from Europe — all from different countries.
In men's play, second-seeded Novak Djokovic kept up his bid for a first Wimbledon title by beating Michael Llodra of France 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. The two-time Australian Open champion, who can replace Rafael Nadal as the top-ranked man in the world by reaching the final, lost in the semifinals last year.
Djokovic will next face Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic, who downed Xavier Malisse 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 to become the youngest man to make the Wimbledon quarterfinals since Boris Becker in 1986.
Fourth-seeded Andy Murray swept Richard Gasquet of France 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 — then took a deep bow to the Royal Box, where Prince William and his new bride Kate joined the rest of the crowd in giving the British winner a standing ovation.
"I was obviously very happy after the match," Murray said. "I think that was the right thing to do."
Murray, who has made the semifinals the last two years, is trying to become the first British man to win the title at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936. He met with the royal couple after the match.
"If I'd known they were coming, I would have shaved," the Scot said with a smile. "I was thinking to myself as I came off I was sweaty and very hairy. I said to them, 'I'm sorry, I'm a bit sweaty.' But it was really nice."
Murray's next opponent is unseeded Feliciano Lopez, who came from two sets down and saved two match points in the third set tiebreaker to overcome Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot 3-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 7-5, 7-5. Lopez served 28 aces.
With no American women left in the draw, 10th-seeded Mardy Fish made it to his first Wimbledon quarters by serving 23 aces and beating 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4. Fish saved both break points he faced and finished with 42 winners and only 12 unforced errors. The sixth-seeded Czech hadn't lost a set in three matches.
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.
"For me to be able come back after having three match points and losing this game at 6-5, and still be able to bounce back, it's really huge."
Wozniacki, who has never reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, went up a break against Cibulkova in the third set but couldn't capitalize, losing serve three times the rest of the way. Cibulkova dictated play most of the last two sets and finished with 44 winners, 11 more than Wozniacki.
Wozniacki has played in only one major final, losing to Kim Clijsters at the 2009 U.S. Open. Despite the lack of a major title, she will remain No. 1 in the rankings.
"I don't really care what people think or say or do," she said. "I cannot really do anything now. I did my best and it wasn't good enough."
Cibulkova earned a quarterfinal matchup with Sharapova, who made it to the last eight for the first time in five years, beating Peng Shuai 6-4, 6-2 on a sweltering day.
Sharapova started slowly before winning seven straight games to take command against the 20th-seeded Chinese player on Court 2. The big-hitting Russian had 27 winners and 10 unforced errors.
The match was played with on-court temperatures measured at 93 degrees, and Sharapova covered her legs with ice wrapped in towels during changeovers.
"Last year I lost in the fourth round to Serena and this year I find myself in the quarterfinals and I'm giving myself an opportunity to go even in further so I'm quite happy about that," Sharapova said. "I have to be a little realistic about the fact that I haven't gotten past the fourth round in a few years. This is a step forward."
In other women's play, fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka beat Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-2; German wild card Sabine Lisicki reached the quarters for the second time, downing Petra Cetkovska 7-6 (3), 6-1; No. 8 Petra Kvitova, a semifinalist here last year, needed just 45 minutes to defeat No. 19 Yanina Wickmayer 6-0, 6-2; and 80th-ranked Austrian Tamira Paszek beat Ksenia Pervak of Russia 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to secure her first Grand Slam quarterfinal berth.