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Serena crashes out of Wimbledon

ESPN staff
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Serena Williams lost in three sets to Alize Cornet © Getty Images
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Serena Williams threw away a one-set lead against France's Alize Cornet as she suffered her earliest Wimbledon exit for nine years.

World No.1 Williams, the top seed and a five-times champion at SW19, was beaten 1-6 6-3 6-4 in Friday's third-round meeting over two hours and four minutes on No.1 Court.

"This is the biggest upset of the tournament because she's No.1 and I can't believe it's me that did it," Cornet said.

"I just cannot believe it. A few years ago I couldn't play on grass."

Williams, who lost at the same stage of Wimbledon in 1998 and 2005, has failed to make it to the last eight at a grand slam this year after exiting the Australian Open in the fourth round and losing her second match at the French Open.

Of Williams' five total defeats in all tournaments this season, two have come against Cornet, who also beat the American in Dubai in February.

Williams said: "Sometimes it happens, you work hard and maybe it's not for today, maybe it's for tomorrow. I just gotta keep going."

It had all got off to such a promising start for Williams, however.

Cornet had never been past the third round at the All England Club, and she had only once before got to the fourth round of a grand slam - way back at the 2009 Australian Open.

Saturday's match was halted at one-all, deuce in the opening set because of rain that disrupted play around the grounds most of the day. After a delay of about four and a half hours, Williams was terrific when they resumed, reeling off five games in a row to grab the first set.

And then, quick as can be, things changed dramatically.

Suddenly, it was Cornet who was putting shots right where she wanted them, and Williams who had trouble finding the mark. In all, Williams wound up with 29 unforced errors - 11 more than Cornet.

"She helped me a little bit," Cornet said, "because she made some mistakes."

Two particular types of strokes troubled Williams: Her serve, which usually is the best in women's tennis, let her down repeatedly, with a total of seven double-faults; and her backhand, which produced 12 of those unforced errors. Cornet did not have a single unforced error off her backhand.

In the third set, Cornet took four games in a row to lead 5-2, but she got broken while serving for the match for the first time. Given a second chance, she steadied herself, and on match point, delivered a perfect drop shot.

When Williams netted the response, Cornet pounded her chest with her fist. Then she hopped around No.1 Court, before kneeling to kiss the grass.

The result gave Cornet her first win against a top-20 opponent at a grand slam in 14 attempts.

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