Venus Williams crashed out of the AEGON International quarter-finals yesterday at the hands of a rejuvenated Daniela Hantuchova (right).
Venus, who celebrates her 31st birthday today, was knocked out of the competition 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 just a day after younger sister Serena which means neither of the tournament’s star attractions made it through to the final four.
Despite her defeat, Williams insisted her time on the South Coast had been nothing but good for her.
She said, “I’ve had plenty of time on the grass, both in matches and in practice. I feel good about my tennis and now I’ll enjoy a couple of days rest before Wimbledon.
“I approach every game to win, whether it’s at Wimbledon, Eastbourne, wherever, so to lose is a big disappointment.
“I have to give credit to her though; she battled extremely hard, got a lot of balls in and was really determined to win.”
It wasn’t a total disaster for Venus who showed occasional flashes of brilliance throughout as well as getting some much-needed competitive tennis under her belt after an injury-hit 2011.
It was her third match in just four days, and having dispatched Andrea Petkovic and Ana Ivanovic the impressive Hantuchova proved to be one step too far.
Hantuchova, ranked number 25 in the world, has begun the grass-court season in exemplary fashion having reached the final of the AEGON Classic in Birmingham on Monday, and she found her form early on centre court yesterday.
The 28-year-old Slovakian, who beat French Open champion Li Na in the round-of-16, broke Williams in just the third game of the match, dismantling the American’s service game with a fine combination of poise and grace.
For Williams, the five-time Wimbledon champion, the lack of match practice was evident.
She struggled with the blustery conditions, which frequently disrupted her serve, and there were a flood of unforced errors from the former world number one that made her unrecognisable from the imposing figure most tennis fans are familiar with.
She came roaring back in the second set and, having trailed from the second game onwards, showed determination to battle through and claim the set 7-5.
Yet the irrepressible Hantuchova was not to be denied. Her court-craft and variety of shots undoubtedly won her the day, and after she broke Williams’ serve early in the deciding set she regained her confidence and sealed the match with relative ease.
Number five seed Petra Kvitova advanced to the semi-final with a tough 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 set victory over Agnieszka Radwanska.
In the other quarter-finals top seed Vera Zvonerava was one set up against Aussie Sam Stouser while Victoria Azeranka and Marion Bartoli had just started on court one at the time of going to press.