There was no great escape for Venus Williams on Friday as the five-times champion became the latest top-10 seed to perish at Wimbledon after she was beaten 6-2 6-7(5) 8-6 in a pulsating third-round match by Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
The American, at 38 the oldest woman in the draw, had to recover from a set down in her first two matches but her days of living dangerously were ended by a opponent who simply would not give up.
The precision serve that had gone AWOL during the first set – with the ninth seed holding serve only once – was back on target for Williams as she produced some exquisite volley winners to snap up the second set when Bertens smacked a forehand long.
But all the effort she put into forcing a decider despite being two points from defeat in the second set came to nothing as Bertens played the match of her life to reach the second week at the All England Club for the first time in her career.
Bertens had come agonisingly close to toppling Williams in Miami this year, when she had held three match points, and she seemed to have learned from that near miss as she dropped to her knees in triumph after watching the American net a backhand to end the two hour, 40 minute thriller.
Williams’ defeat continued the horror show for women’s seeds at Wimbledon as only two of the top 10 – world number one Simona Halep and number seven Karolina Pliskova – are still in the tournament. It is the worst showing by the women’s seeds in the professional era. (Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond)