Five-time champion Venus Williams today lost in the opening round at Wimbledon for the first time since the year she made her debut at the tournament.
The 32-year-old American was bundled out in straight sets by Russian Elena Vesnina, who claimed a fine 6-1 6-3 success on Court Two.
Williams’ only previous experience of a first-round singles loss at Wimbledon came as a 17-year-old in 1997 when she was defeated by Polish player Magdalena Grzybowska.
Today Vesnina could hardly believe her achievement, with the 25-year-old dancing a jig of joy and all smiles after securing a second-round clash with number three seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Williams fell 5-0 behind in the opening set, against a player Britain’s Heather Watson beat in the French Open first round last month.
She slowly improved but could not find a way to turn the match around.
Williams had game point for 3-3 in the second set but frittered it away by overshooting the baseline and Vesnina broke.
It was soon 5-2 as Vesnina held serve, and although Williams had a love game straight afterwards it was only delaying her opponent’s charge.
Williams is down at 58th in the world rankings, with Sjogren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease which has had a major effect on her health, having kept her out of the game between last summer’s US Open and the WTA tournament at Miami in March.
There has been speculation she could soon retire, but sister Serena Williams said on Saturday: “I have no intention of stopping, and I don’t think she does either.”