| LONDON, June 27
LONDON, June 27 It took less than two brutal
hours at Wimbledon on Monday to disprove the theory that Serena
and Venus Williams could march back to continue their domination
of the grasscourt slam having hardly swung their rackets in
anger for months.
First defending champion Serena was bundled out in the
fourth round 6-3 7-6 by livewire Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli then
five-times champion Venus was destroyed 6-2 6-3 by Bulgarian
World number one Caroline Wozniacki also departed but the
Manic Monday carnage did not extend to the men's singles
although defending champion Rafa Nadal suffered a major injury
scare during a scintillating late evening win over Juan Martin
del Potro in front of a captivated Centre Court crowd.
Nadal won 7-6 3-6 7-6 6-4 while six-times champion Roger
Federer lost his first set of the tournament in beating Russian
Mikhail Youzhny as home flag bearer Andy Murray and world number
two Novak Djokovic sauntered through in straight sets.
Nadal needed lengthy treatment on a mystery foot complaint
at 6-6 in the first set and admitted he feared at the time his
title defence was over.
"It felt terrible at 6-5," Nadal, who extended his Wimbledon
winning streak to 18 matches, told reporters. "It felt like I
had broken my foot, I didn't know if I could continue playing."
The 25-year-old will have an MRI scan to assess the damage.
Australian Bernard Tomic continued his memorable run, the
18-year-old thrashing Belgium's Xavier Malisse to become the
youngest player to reach the men's quarter-finals since 1986.
Wozniacki's shock 1-6 7-6 7-5 loss to Slovakia's Dominika
Cibulkova came in the immediate aftermath of the double Williams
bombshell and left 2004 champion Maria Sharapova as the clear
favourite for the title after the Russian fifth seed overpowered
China's Peng Shuai 6-4 6-2.
Serena, who returned from 11 months out with a lacerated
foot and then life-threatening blood clots just in time for
Wimbledon, spent the first three rounds shaking off the rust and
appeared to be rediscovering the firepower that has brought the
29-year-old 13 grand slam titles.
Once again she scrapped like an alley-cat but the unorthodox
Bartoli, beaten by Venus in the 2007 final, proved a match too
far for the champion whose hopes of three consecutive titles
evaporated in oppressive heat on Court One.
After defeat, though, she fired out an ominous warning to
her rivals and anyone preparing to write her off.
"Even today I lost, but I was able to kind of hang in there
and play tough," Williams, who was watched by friend and soul
diva Beyonce, told reporters. "And I can only get better. And
that can potentially be really scary, because I can only go up
from here and I can just do so much more."
Bartoli appeared to be playing with fire at times, jumping
around inside the baseline as her opponent wound up her mighty
serve and fist-pumping towards Williams after big points.
She carried it off, though, claiming her first victory over
the American on her fifth match point after some fidgety moments
for father and coach Walter, who Bartoli had banished from court
While Serena at least went down fighting, 31-year-old Venus
produced a lame performance against Pironkova, the player who
stopped her in the quarter-finals last year.
"Unfortunately I seem not to have my good days against her,"
Venus said. "I think we both envisioned seeing this day going a
little bit different."
Bartoli will take on Sabine Lisicki on Tuesday after the
German wildcard beat Petra Cetkovska while Pironkova faces Czech
Petra Kvitova, also a semi-finalist last year, after she clubbed
Yanina Wickmayer 6-0 6-2.
With Sharapova up against Cibulkova and Belarussian fourth
seed Victoria Azarenka playing surprise Austrian Tamira Paszek,
the quarter-final lineup is an all-European affair for the first
time since 1913.
With all eight men's and women's last-16 matches slated on
the schedule the All England Club was abuzz from the moments the
gates swung open on a stifling morning.
The recently married Prince William and the Duchess of
Cambridge had the best seats in the house and would have given
their seal of approval to Murray's most impressive display this
year as he dismantled Gasquet in three sets.
Next in the number four seed's firing line as he aims to
become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936 is
Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez, who hit back from two sets
down to beat Poland's Lukasz Kubot.
Nadal's injury woes returned at the end of a high-quality
first set when the Spaniard grimaced in discomfort with
something clearly wrong with his foot.
After nearly 10 minutes of treatment, Nadal then went 3-0
down in the tiebreak but he fought back to take the opener when
an irritated Del Potro double-faulted.
Del Potro unleashed a barrage of forehands to batter Nadal
into submission in the second set and when the third went to a
tiebreak, the crowd sensed the outcome of it would be crucial.
So it proved as Nadal, scampering about and conjuring
astonishing angles, took it and then broke for the first time in
the fifth game of the fourth set to subdue the 24th seed and
book a last-eight slot against last American standing Mardy
Fish, an easy winner against 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic, who can replace Nadal as world number one by
reaching the final, had a relatively stress-free workout against
Michael Llodra, dropping just nine games en route to an
intriguing quarter-final with young gun Tomic.
Third seed Federer had a jolt when he lost an opening set
tiebreak to Youzhny but was majestic thereafter, gliding through
the next three sets 6-3 6-3 6-3.
Next up for Federer is charismatic Frenchman Jo-Wilfried
Tsonga, who reached the quarter-final for the second year in a
row with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 win against Spain's David Ferrer.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman)