Wimbledon: Venus Williams shocked by world No 82 Pironkova
Tsvetana Pironkova compared Wimbledon to a religious experience after putting on a divine display to eliminate second seed Venus Williams in the quarter-finals.
The 22-year-old Bulgarian had never made it past the second round of a grand slam event prior to arriving at the All England Club this year but has emphatically set that to rights on her pilgrimage to the final four.
Pironkova made a mockery of her world ranking of 82 to soundly dismiss the challenge of five-time champion Williams, who looked out of sorts as myriad errors spewed from her racquet.
Kim Clijsters' conqueror Vera Zvonereva lies in wait in tomorrow's semi-finals, and Pironkova revealed her exploits this Wimbledon fortnight mark the realisation of a long-held dream dating back to her childhood in Bulgaria's second city, Plovdiv.
“Wimbledon has always been like a religion to me,” said Pironkova, whose 6-2 6-3 triumph over Williams was rapturously received by an appreciative Court One crowd.
“And I don't think it's just for me. I think it's for all of the players.
“Wimbledon is the first tournament, it's the oldest tournament. Growing up, every player is looking at Wimbledon. They say, ‘One day I want to play there. That's like a dream'.
“I still cannot believe that I reached the semi-finals. This is truly like a dream to me, and I will try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Pironkova's defeat of Williams, which ended the American's hopes of reaching the final for the fourth year in succession, was perhaps not quite the shock it appeared on first viewing.
Williams has been acutely aware of the threat posed by the young Bulgarian since Pironkova beat her in the first round of the Australian Open in 2006.
And Pironkova admitted the memory of that three-set triumph was with her as she stepped out on court today.
“I had one win over her and I actually thought that I could win,” she revealed.
Williams offered a succinct explanation for the ease of the victory, however.
“I think I missed all shots today: forehand, volley, backhand. If there was a shot to miss, I think I missed it,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, sister Serena dismissed the idea the Wimbledon title is hers to lose after she powered into the semi-finals with a 7-5 6-3 win over Li Na.
With Williams playing Petra Kvitova and Zvonareva facing Pironkova, it is a line up which sees three who have never reached a grand slam final before, while the top seed has 12 titles to her name, but she insists it is still wide open.
“It's mine to win if I can get it,” said Williams. “There's three other people that are vying to win it. They have just as good a chance as I do.”
Worryingly for the rest of the field, the top seed feels she has more gears to go up through.
“I don't feel like I've been playing my best tennis in this championship, my best strokes,” she said. “I feel like it would be a good win to get under my belt.”
It may have been a day of shocks but the chances of Williams joining the list of casualties always seemed remote, although she had been tested by Li in all five of their previous meetings, with the ninth seed winning one of those encounters.
Williams was happy to come through what she had expected to be a tough test.
The 28-year-old said: “She's definitely tricky at times, and I've had a run-in with her several times. In the first set, even the second, she definitely had her ups. She's good at moving the ball around, she's good at making unbelievable shots.”
Her one gripe was that she only managed 11 aces, taking her total to 73 for the tournament — which is more than twice as many as any other woman and more than all but nine of the men.