Williams sisters’ five-year reign ends, Wozniacki defiant

Serena and Venus Williams vowed to return stronger than ever on Monday after their five-year reign at Wimbledon was brought to an abrupt end in the fourth round.

The all-conquering sisters — practically invincible at Wimbledon since 2000 with a staggering nine titles between them — were dumped out in the last 16 after suffering straight sets defeats.

Defending champion Serena was beaten 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) by French ninth seed Marion Bartoli, while big sister Venus lost 6-2, 6-3 to Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova for the second year in a row.

“This was definitely not our best day. I think we both envisioned seeing this day going a little bit different,” Venus admitted.

But the Williams sisters rejected suggestions that their double defeat marked the end of an era after a year in which they have both struggled with lengthy injury lay-offs and health problems.

Former world number one Serena, who had not played for nearly a year before returning in the warm-up event at Eastbourne earlier in June, insisted she still had the desire to return to the top.

“I made an effort to get out here and play a couple of tournaments. I just can’t sit here and be disappointed. For the most part, I can just use this as momentum going forward,” she said.

“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.

‘Moving on’
“I obviously would have loved to do better but considering the condition I was in, considering a lot of things, I really feel I did well. I would have been sad being at home watching it on TV, like I’m going to be soon.

“I just feel like I can do a lot better, which would really suck if I was here thinking, wow, I played my best and that was the best that I could do.”

Serena’s defeat will see her world ranking drop to around 180th and she may require a wild card to compete at the US Open unless she picks up ranking points during the early part of the hard court season.

Venus (31) who only returned earlier this month after five months out with a hip injury sustained at the Australian Open, is also confident she will improve by the time the North American hard-court season climaxes at the US Open.

“I look forward to it. I got ready for this tournament so fast. You wouldn’t even believe how quick that happened,” she said.

“With more time, I think I can definitely play better, more matches. Obviously I would love to have peaked here. But, you know, I’m moving on.

“I think I have the opportunity throughout the summer to play more matches and be better and hopefully avoid moments like this.”

Wozniacki defends ranking
World number one Caroline Wozniacki insists she still deserves to be top of the rankings even though the Dane endured another Grand Slam flop at Wimbledon on Monday.

Wozniacki was beaten 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 by Slovakian 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round and has now failed to make it past the last 16 at the All England Club in five attempts.

The 20-year-old’s numerous critics will seize on this latest failure as further proof that she doesn’t deserve to be number one.

Wozniacki lost her only Grand Slam final against Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open and she failed at the French Open recently, losing in the third round against Daniela Hantuchova.

It was the same old story on Court Two as she crumbled under pressure against the inspired Cibulkova, who will play 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the last eight.

But Wozniacki is adamant it was just a bad day at the office against Cibulkova and not a true reflection of her ability.

“Well, to be honest, I don’t really care what people think or say or do,” Wozniacki said. “I cannot really do anything. I did my best and it wasn’t good enough.

“That’s something that happens sometimes. I have a chance and I usually take it. That’s why I am where I am.

‘It’s tough’
“But today it just didn’t go my way. She played well as well. So I just have to give credit to her.

“I just need to look forward and go back on the practice court. I still have Bastad before I take a little break and get ready for the hard-court season. I’m looking forward to the challenge there.”

Although Wozniacki won’t accept any criticism of her ranking, she conceded the defeat against Cibulkova was a result of her own careless play.

“I started well but in the second set I didn’t get too many deep returns in, and then she had the advantage from there,” Wozniacki said.

But I had so many chances in the third set I should have taken and I didn’t. Then you lose the match.

“It’s kind of disappointing because when you’re up 2-0 with a break and have a lot of breakpoints that you don’t convert, that’s kind of your own fault.

“She just goes for everything. She doesn’t hold back so if it goes in, it’s tough.”

Being compared to Serena
Former French Open semifinalist Cibulkova added fuel to the debate over Wozniacki as she admitted the Dane doesn’t measure up to the likes of Serena Williams, a former number one who has won 13 Grand Slam titles.

“It’s not easy when you are compared to Serena Williams, because she was the best player and she was really tough to play. She had so many Grand Slam titles,” she said.

“Caroline is now compared to the other number ones. She never won a Grand Slam and that’s what they ask her all the time, when is she going to win a Grand Slam.”

Cibulkova (22) revealed she had to go for broke on every shot to secure a win she described as one of the best of her career.

“This is a big tournament. It’s a really big result and I would rank it in my top five wins,” she said.

“After the first set I realised I had to go for my shots 100% or I have no chance. I had to go all or nothing.

“That’s the way how you should play against Wozniacki because she’s just great at defending and then taking her chance.” — AFP

Rob Woollard
Rob Woollard
Report on sport in the Americas for Agence France-Presse.
Steve Griffiths
Guest Author
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