WIMBLEDON, England – As American Serena Williams began to fall behind in what would become her earliest Wimbledon exit in nearly a decade, her coach could tell something was awry.
Not the so-so serving. Or the bad backhands. This was a larger problem.
“Right now, she doesn’t have her usual ability to respond and turn matches around,” said Patrick Mouratoglou, who has worked with Williams since 2012. “It was obvious when she trailed 3-0 in the second set. Nothing happened.”
Unable to get back on track once she no longer had control of the match, five-time Wimbledon champion Williams lost to 25th-seeded Alize Cornet of France 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday in the third round, the latest in a recent series of surprising setbacks at Grand Slam events.
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Williams, 32, hadn’t been eliminated at Wimbledon so soon since 2005, when she also lost in the third round. The No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Williams owns 17 major titles, one fewer than Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, but has departed before the quarterfinals at four of the past five majors.
“It might be a bit premature to talk about her decline, but when she plays someone who finds the right tactics, she looks a bit lost on the court,” the 24-year-old Cornet said. “In my opinion, there are more and more players understanding how to play her.”
• Cornet also beat Williams at the Dubai Championships in February, and watched video of that match before playing Saturday.
• Three past Wimbledon champions won on Centre Court: Rafael Nadal of Spain, Roger Federer of Switzerland and Maria Sharapova of Russia.
Nadal was the only one of the trio to lose a set, as he beat Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.