LONDON, July 1 (Reuters) - Wimbledon entered the twilight zone on Monday as Serena Williams became the latest high-profile champion to fade into oblivion at a tournament where reputations and star status are counting for nothing.
Just when it seemed that this year’s grasscourt major had exhausted its quota of shocks with grand slam champions Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka all blotted out of the draw by the second round, along came Sabine Lisicki.
The German, playing a brand of fearless tennis that many dream of but only the brave produce, jettisoned the American holder 6-2 1-6 6-4 to leave Wimbledon gasping in disbelief once again.
Lisicki also struggled to catch her breath.
“I‘m still shaking, I‘m so happy,” gulped a tearful Lisicki, who fell flat on her stomach in her moment of triumph. “It’s amazing, I love this court so much. It’s unbelievable!”
It certainly was unbelievable because even before the first-week exodus of big names, Williams had been the overwhelming favourite to win a sixth title having triumphed at three of the last four majors.
She walked on court armed with the knowledge that she was on a 34-match winning streak and had suffered only two losses all year.
That record failed to salvage her Wimbledon dreams and her exit left world number four Agnieszka Radwanska as the highest seed and Czech Petra Kvitova as the only former champion still alive in the women’s draw.
Eighth seed Kvitova dispatched Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 7-6(5)6-3 to set up a last-eight meeting Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.
William’s downfall also meant that Sloane Stephens was the only American, man or woman, to reach the quarter-finals.
The 20-year-old lived up to her billing as the next generation of American tennis by beating Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig 4-6 7-5 6-1.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Li Na proved that 31-year-olds can still do damage on grass as she narrowly missed out on dishing out the dreaded double bagel during a 6-2 6-0 thrashing of Italian 11th seed Roberta Vinci.
Day seven at Wimbledon is unique as it is the only one of the four grand slams to schedule 16 fourth-round showdowns - both in men and women’s singles - on the same day.
But after a week of seismic shocks decimated the draw and left it shorn of house-hold names, it was a case of guess who for the fans who wandered around the outside courts.
Lukasz Kubot v Adrian Mannarino on Court 14?
“Oh it’s a couple of nobodies!,” quipped one spectator as he craned his neck to see the names on the on court scoreboard.
Had the fan stuck around to see the match to its conclusion, he would have caught sight of Kubot doing his bizarre can-can victory jig along the service line following his absorbing 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 win over Frenchman Mannarino.
Kubot and Mannarino were among four players outside the top 100 who had made it to the second Monday at Wimbledon.
Before the start of day eight, Kubot was the only long, long shot to battle on as 166th-ranked Flavia Pennetta succumbed in straight sets to Flipkins and another Italian, 104th ranked Karin Knapp, lost to former finalist Marion Bartoli.
Poland waited 33 years for a male quarter-finalist at a grand slam but two arrived within minutes of each other after Kubot set up an unlikely last-eight date with 6-foot-8 Jerzy Janowicz.
The big-serving Janowicz blasted down 16 aces, the fastest recorded was 137 mph, as he edged past Juergen Melzer 3-6 7-6 6-4 4-6 6-4.
Britain had also been anticipating a double celebration as for the first time since 1998, home interest was still alive in both singles draws on the second Monday.
But hopes that Andy Murray and Laura Robson would both reach the last eight were dashed when the 19-year-old Robson bowed out 7-6(6) 7-5 to Kaia Kanepi. (Editing by Ed Osmond)