Watson faced down the biggest match of her career forcing herself to believe “everybody’s human” when taking on 20-time grand slam champion Williams.
The 23-year-old was so close to realising that mantra, pushing the reigning Australian and French Open queen the distance only for Williams to prevail 6-2 4-6 7-5 and set up a last-16 tussle with sister Venus.
An almost-tearful Serena Williams left Centre Court admitting Watson “should have won the match”.
“She was playing so good there was nothing I could do,” Williams said. “She played unbelievable and really I think she should have won the match. She was up two breaks (in the final set).
“She really gave her all.”
Maria Sharapova crushed Irina-Camelia Begu with a routine straight-sets victory to reach Wimbledon’s last 16 for the 10th time in 13 years.
The 2004 champion bombed out in the second round in 2008, 2009 and 2013, but reached the fourth round for the second year running.
While all eyes yesterday were trained on Williams and Watson, that did not stop Sharapova slipping quietly through to Wimbledon’s second week, where she will meet either Zarina Diyas or 14th seed Andrea Petkovic.
The five-time grand slam champion and fourth seed was in the mood to start her weekend early, completing an all-but fuss-free 6-4 6-3 victory.
Sharapova led the second set 5-0 before Begu launched a mini recovery, but the commanding Russian soon quashed the last of the Romanian’s resistance.
Sharapova’s victory followed a sizeable upset in the shape of the USA’s Coco Vandeweghe dumping out 22nd seed Sam Stosur.
Australian hope Stosur could not contain her pumped-up American opponent, who triumphed 6-2 6-0.
Fashionista American star Bethanie Mattek-Sands might be frustrated by Wimbledon’s strict dress code after suggesting it should be relaxed earlier in the week, but will no longer have to worry about how to be creative with her on-court attire after losing out in straight sets to Belinda Bencic.
Eastbourne winner Bencic continued her fine form by swatting aside Mattek-Sands 7-5 7-5.
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka cruised through their third-round tests at Wimbledon as Australian dark horse Nick Kyrgios staked his own claim.
While the big two in the top half of the draw were untroubled, both Djokovic and Wawrinka winning in straight sets, there were big-name exits as last year’s losing semi-finalists departed.
Kyrgios avenged his defeat to Milos Raonic from last year’s quarter-finals and Grigor Dimitrov bowed out to Richard Gasquet, whose tennis was as easy on the eye as ever, treating Centre Court to all the best aspects of his luxurious game in claiming the straight-sets scalp of the Bulgarian.
Djokovic eased to a 6-3 6-3 6-3 victory over Australian Bernard Tomic, and the Serbian top seed, bidding to defend his title, has yet to drop a set.
He said: “I’m pleased with the performances so far.
“The second week is obviously always more challenging, more difficult than the first week. But I’m ready for it now.”
He faces big-serving South African Kevin Anderson on Monday, and Djokovic said: “I have two days. I’m going to work on the court, get myself recovered and ready for a challenge that is presented in the second week.”
Djokovic said of the prospect of taking on world number 14 Anderson: ``He is another big server and somebody that is in great form.
“I think he is probably playing the tennis of his life all in all. He’s reached the highest ranking now in his career. He keeps on going forward.
“I think he improved his movement and his game from the baseline. He always had a very good serve.
“I think it’s going to be a game of very small margins that will be decided by a few points. So I need to be able to get as many returns back in play.”
Fourth seed and recent French Open winner Stan Wawrinka, who stunned Djokovic in the Roland Garros final, sauntered to a 6-4 6-3 6-4 win against the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
That sets up a shot at Belgian David Goffin next, and Wawrinka said: “It’s great, for sure, to be in the second week. I haven’t been broken in three matches. My game is there, in general, but also the confidence is there.”
Kyrgios was in sparkling form to oust Canadian seventh seed Raonic.
His aptitude on grass is not in doubt, with the manner of his victory over Rafael Nadal last year showing he loves the surface, and 34 aces and a flurry of stunning passing shots showed Kyrgios to be a truly multi-dimensional exponent, one who could soon be pushing for the Wimbledon title.
The 20-year-old was momentarily involved with one fan who he felt was chiding him, and took inspiration from another, in a Batman T-shirt, who was urging him on at crucial points during his 5-7 7-5 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 win, which set up a shot at Gasquet next.
“I think if I play the right style of tennis, obviously if I’m serving well, feeling good out there, I think I can go close,” said Kyrgios.
“I have a tough task ahead. Gasquet is playing some really good tennis. Beating Dimitrov in straight sets is not an easy task on the grass.”
Gasquet turned on the style to sink the hopes of 11th seed Dimitrov, his 6-3 6-4 6-4 margin of victory rich reward for a performance that charmed spectators inside the tournament’s main show court.