Venus Williams, Madison Keys latest to exit Wimbledon

8 of top-10 women's seeds eliminated in London

By RAVI UBHA, CNN
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Venus Williams returns a shot against Kiki Bertens during her third-round loss at Wimbledon on July 6, 2018, in London, England.

WIMBLEDON (CNN) - It has been a record-setting week for the top-10 women's seeds at Wimbledon. But it is not the type of history they wanted to create.

Two more lost Friday and they were both American: Five-time champion Venus Williams fell 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 8-6 to a player better known for her clay-court prowess, Kiki Bertens, after US Open finalist Madison Keys was ousted 7-5 5-7 6-4 by 120th-ranked qualifier Evgeniya Rodina.

One of Keys' problems, she said, was thinking ahead to a possible tussle with Williams' younger sibling, Serena, who downed Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 7-6 (7-2).

It means that at the most, only two of those top-10 seeds will land in the fourth round Monday. In the Open Era, according to the WTA, it would already have been the first time as few as three have been in the round of 16 at the All England Club.

"I think a lot of the top players are losing, but they're losing to girls that are playing outstanding," Serena, the 23-time grand slam winner, said. "I think, if anything, it shows me every moment that I can't underestimate any of these ladies. They are just going out there swinging and playing for broke."

The lone survivors? French Open champion Simona Halep and No. 7 Karolina Pliskova, who was perilously close to losing to Mihaela Buzarnescu. The in-form 29th seed led the Czech by a set, 4-1 and 30-0 prior to Pliskova rallying for a 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 victory. Halep contests her third-round match Saturday.

"Only me and Simona, we are in," Pliskova said. "It's tennis. Everything is possible. You can see everybody is playing great tennis. Even today I could lose. There's so many close matches. For me it's important I'm in the draw still."

String of upsets

Besides winning Wimbledon on a handful of occasions, Williams made last year's final and the semifinals in 2016. You have to go back four years to when she lost this early at Wimbledon, in the third round to a player who would go on to win a second title at SW19, Petra Kvitova.

Kvitova and last year's winner, Garbine Muguruza, were among those surprisingly bundled out this week, too.

Williams enjoyed a grand slam renaissance in 2017, making the final at the Australian Open and semifinals at the US Open along with the deep run at Wimbledon. This year however has been altogether different for the 38-year-old.

Her third-round departure at Wimbledon followed first-round exits at the Australian Open and French Open.

Williams looked to have weathered the storm from the 20th-seeded Bertens when the Dutchwoman relinquished a 4-2 lead in the second set and couldn't serve out the encounter at 5-4, 30-15, making three straight unforced errors.

Williams had all the momentum to start the third and duly raced to a 2-0 lead, only to concede serve.

Pressure increasing

From then on, she was routinely under pressure on serve, escaping from 3-4, 15-30 and 5-6, 0-30.

But there was no escaping at 6-7, as Williams netted a backhand on a third match point. Williams had led the game 40-15 before saving two match points with a stretched forehand volley and forcing an error thanks to a ripped ground stroke.

Bertens crumpled to the court in joy, just four months after the 26-year-old squandered three match points in Miami against the seven-time major champion.

"Yeah, of course that was going into my mind sometimes during the match," said Bertens. "I just kept telling myself that I had, like, a chance today again. I played a really good match, played aggressive, which I also did in Miami.

"I was just like, 'Okay, keep going for it,' then you see. In the end, I was lucky enough to win today."

Like Williams, Keys found herself in a decent position after digging out of a second-set hole. In her case, the recent French Open semifinalist trailed Rodina 4-0 in the second, needing to save four break points to avoid a 5-0 deficit.

Keys, though, couldn't take full advantage of the momentum as the Russian grabbed a 3-1 lead in the decider.

The fifth and final break of the third came at 4-4, with Rodina sealing proceedings on her serve from a sticky 15-30 situation.

Players often say they don't look at draws but Keys clearly did and thought of that potential round of 16 rendez-vous with Serena Williams when she held a 5-2 lead in the first.

Thinking about Serena

"I've gotten so good at playing the one match in front of me, and when you're up 5-2 and you're doing well, I felt my mind go and move on," was Keys' honest assessment. "I don't think I did a good job of keeping in the moment and playing the person who was in front of me."

The 23-year-old said it wasn't the first time it happened and probably won't be the last.

"I don't think it really matters how old you are, how many times you have played," Keys said. "It happens."

Even though it is only her fourth tournament in a year and a half after giving birth to daughter Olympia last September, Serena could be on track to landing that record-tying 24th major. Especially with all the upsets around her.

When Serena and Mladenovic last met, at the same stage of the French Open, they also went to a second-set tiebreak. That day, Serena edged the thrilling tiebreak 12-10.

On Friday, Serena rallied from 3-5 in the first before cruising in the second-set tiebreak. The last of her 13 aces came on match point and with the win, the seven-time Wimbledon champion ensured no repeat of what happened at the 2008 French Open when the siblings were ousted on the same day. In meeting Rodina on Monday, she will play a fellow mom.

Federer keeps rolling

In the men's draw, Roger Federer swept past Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 7-5 6-2 in 94 minutes, not facing a break point. Since winning the first of his eight Wimbledon titles in 2003, the Swiss has only ever lost in the first week once, in 2013.

French showman Gael Monfils and Wimbledon marathon man John Isner reached their first fourth rounds at Wimbledon by taking out 2017 semifinalist Sam Querrey 5-7 6-4 6-4 6-2 and Moldova's Radu Albot 6-3 6-3 6-4, respectively, while fourth-seed Alexander Zverev returned to court Friday and won both sets to see off American Taylor Fritz 6-4 5-7 6-7 (0-7) 6-1 6-2. They were halted by darkness Thursday.

And on the subject of fifth-setters, El Salvador's Marcelo Arevalo and Chile's Hans Podlipnik-Castillo spent five hours on court in a 6-4 6-7 5-7 6-4 22-20 doubles win over British pair Cameron Norrie and Jay Clarke.

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