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Serena Williams crashes out of Wimbledon

A gaping hole appeared in the women's draw at Wimbledon after Alize Cornet toppled top seed Serena Williams this morning (Singapore time), but Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer stayed on course for a semi-final showdown after convincing wins.

On a day of dark clouds and rain delays at the All England Club, Williams' hopes of a sixth singles title fizzled out as she sank to a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat by the French 25th seed who celebrated her shock win by kissing the Court One turf.

World No. 1 Williams, 32, had not fallen before the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2005 and, after returning from a four-hour rain delay, she was charging towards the second week before her power game malfunctioned.

Williams appeared hesitant as Cornet battled back with some aggressive tennis and, despite showing true champions spirit to claw back two games late on, there was no escape for the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

The result ended hopes of an eagerly anticipated last-16 match-up between Williams and fast-rising Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who comfortably beat fellow French Open semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-4.

It would also have been noted with more than passing interest by fifth seed Maria Sharapova, who is chasing her second Wimbledon title, 10 years after her first, and who is expected to face Williams in the quarter-finals.

Russian Sharapova, who has a 1-15 record against Williams since beating her in the 2004 final, took advantage of playing under the closed Centre Court roof with a 6-3, 6-0 thrashing of unseeded American Alison Riske.

Williams has now lost before the quarter-finals in all three of this year's Grand Slams and time appears to be running out on her bid to reach Steffi Graf's record haul of 22 Major titles.

"I think everyone, in general, plays the match of their lives against me," said Williams. "I'm pretty sure that the next match, it won't be the same. "It's okay, though. Sometimes it happens. You work hard, maybe it's not for today, maybe it's for tomorrow."

Just as in his previous two matches, Nadal offered a glimmer of hope to an opponent on his way to the last 16 before switching on after-burners to race to a 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 win against Kazakhstan's 63rd-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin.

Nadal's next assignment will be Australian wildcard Nick Kyrgios after the 19-year-old beat fellow youngster Jiri Vesely in a battle of the former world No. 1 juniors.

Kyrgios, cheered on by a legion of Australian fans, won 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 and is the first wildcard to reach the last 16 since Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2009.

Swiss master Federer, seeking a record eighth Wimbledon title, continued his serene progress to the fourth round when he outclassed Colombia's Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.

Federer will face Tommy Robredo tomorrow after his fellow 32-year-old edged out Poland's 15th seed Jerzy Janowicz 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 4-6, 6-3 in a match ending on a virtually empty Court Two and in near darkness.

Canadian Milos Raonic dropped only nine points on his serve as he reached the last 16 for the first time by beating Lukasz Kubot.

Like Federer, and defending champion Andy Murray, dark horse Raonic has yet to drop a set.

While the weather did relent late in the day, the schedule was in tatters with two men's third-round matches - Stanislas Wawrinka v Denis Istomin and Feliciano Lopez v John Isner - not starting and several others failing to finish.

Last year's runner-up Sabine Lisicki was a set ahead against Serbia's former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic when play was suspended after her heated discussion about the gathering gloom. - Reuters.

Liverpool in a fix over Suarez

Like almost everyone else watching the World Cup Group D game between Italy and Uruguay on Wednesday, Michael Owen was incredulous as he watched what unfolded.

"Tell me I'm seeing things," the former Liverpool striker tweeted.

"Surely Suarez (above), didn't bite someone again?"

Much has been said about Suarez's nine-match international ban and four-month ban from all football activity.

The Uruguayan's club, Liverpool, though, have said little, other than to release a brief statement saying they would review the Fifa disciplinary committee's report before making any further comment.

Owen says his former club are in a lose-lose situation.

"It's a big problem for Liverpool, obviously, and you have to feel sorry for them," he told The New Paper yesterday.

"Suarez wasn't playing for them at the time and they're getting punished for something he's done with his national team. So Liverpool are the big losers in all this.

"They need him if they want to win the Premier League because he's their best player.

"But, on the other hand, they are a very proud club with lots of tradition and he's not learnt his lesson from the first and second times."

He said he felt for his former club especially since they had stood by Suarez's two major controversies over the last two seasons - first being banned for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, and then biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

Said Owen: "Last year, Suarez was an absolute joy to watch in the EPL and behaved himself fantastically well, and everybody was saying he's reformed, he's a better person.

"And that was all down to the club standing by him and showing him the support.

"Now, he's made another mistake while playing for his country and it's going to be very difficult for Liverpool to know what to do.

"I don't know what's the right thing to do and I'm not sure Liverpool do, either. It is fair to say that if he were a smaller player, he wouldn't be at Liverpool."

Owen brushed aside comparisons over how Liverpool have reacted to Suarez's latest act and the way United came to a swift decision in just days to suspend talismanic striker Eric Cantona after his "gongfu" kick at a Crystal Palace fan in 1995.

He said: "I think it's more difficult in this situation because this was during the World Cup, and it's not for Liverpool to say something within one minute of it happening.

"I'm sure the club would have come out with a bigger and better statement if it had happened in the Premier League.

- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ

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