Ana Ivanovic’s troubled passage through Wimbledon was brought to a dramatic halt today when she became the biggest casualty of this year’s Championships so far.
The top seed was punished for an error-strewn display by being dumped out of the All England Club with a 1-6 4-6 defeat by Jie Zheng, a player ranked 133 in the world.
French Open champion Ivanovic struggled past Nathalie Dechy in an epic three-set battle on Wednesday and Zheng subjected her to another torrid afternoon.
But this time the Serbian beauty could not spring the necessary escape act as Wimbledon savoured another major upset in a tournament full of surprises.
Zheng appeared to be half the size of her Serbian opponent but looks were deceiving as the world number 133 produced some ferocious shots from the baseline that belied her stature.
On the few occasions Ivanovic looked her usual self, Zheng struggled to cope, but the tenacity of the pocket battleship from China ensured Court One belonged to her.
Ivanovic’s sights needed calibrating early on as two shots skied off the frame of her racquet.
She appeared to have readjusted after blasting Zheng into submission in the second but several unforced errors put her opponent in the driving seat once again.
The problems resumed in the fourth when she conceded three break points as she continued to find the net with crippling frequency, double-faulting on the second.
Zheng was producing some fearsome strokes from the baseline and Ivanovic’s frustration deepened when a Hawk-Eye challenge was rejected.
Looking to steady the ship on her own serve, Ivanovic instead conceded another break point when Zheng made her pay for coming to the net.
She saved the danger but a minute later was back in trouble and when the net proved her undoing yet again, Zheng served to take the set.
Ivanovic halted the slump by comfortably winning the opening game of the second set but by the third she was wobbling again.
The net was still proving her nemesis and just to highlight her Achilles heel she blasted another shot low of the target when Zheng was on break point.
From nowhere Ivanovic then rediscovered the authority that has swept her to the summit of the world rankings.
Cranking up the power with her radar switched back on, she overwhelmed Zheng to win her first break game by concluding an enthralling rally.
The revival was short-lived, however, as Zheng’s tenacity gave her a foothold in a marathon fifth and when break point arrived Ivanovic nudged the decisive shot wide.
The 20-year-old was playing with greater accuracy, slowing Zheng’s progress, but with the set going to service her demise looked imminent.
Serving for the match, Zheng overcame a shaky start to fire an unstoppable serve that landed the killer blow.