Serena Williams of the U.S. holds a towel to her face during a break in her women's singles tennis match against Alize Cornet of France at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London June 28, 2014. Photo by Stefan Wermuth, Reuters.
LONDON - Defiant Serena Williams insists her shock Wimbledon exit won't herald the end of her reign as the dominant force in the women's game.
Williams crashed to her earliest exit at Wimbledon for nine years as the world number one suffered a shock 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss against French 25th seed Alize Cornet in the third round on Saturday.
Top seed Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion, had reached at least the last 16 in each of her previous seven visits to the All England Club, but Cornet fought back from a set down to end that sequence in two hours and four minutes of gripping drama on Court One on Saturday.
It was the shell-shocked 32-year-old's earliest Wimbledon exit since her loss to Jill Craybas at the same stage in 2005.
Serena could have no complaints about an embarrassing defeat which continued a disappointing campaign for the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who has failed to get beyond the fourth round at any of the three majors so far this year.
Serena had arrived in south-west London desperate to make amends for her shock first round exit against Garbine Muguruza at the French Open last month, a chastening result which followed her Australian Open fourth round defeat against Ana Ivanovic.
But she is convinced her poor form in 2014 isn't a sign that she is finally on the way down after over a decade as the sport's pre-eminent power.
"In Australia I just couldn't play. And Paris I played really bad. Here I actually thought I played better. I came into the tournament in better form," Serena said.
"I thought I was doing pretty decent. I'm going to have to watch this film and see what I can do better and what went wrong.
"It's okay. Sometimes it happens. You work hard, maybe it's not for today, maybe it's for tomorrow. I just got to keep going.
"It's happened to me a few times. But it's fun. It kind of gives you a mission to work on, gives you goals to work towards to kind of see what you can do to do better."
Serena had started the tournament in fine form, brushing aside Anna Tatishvili and Chanelle Scheepers in dominant style.
But she came up against an inspired opponent in Cornet, who played the match of her life to reach the last 16 at a Grand Slam for only the second time but buoyed by having defeated the great American in Dubai earlier this year.
And, rather than point the finger at her own failings in the latest in a growing list of curiously lethargic displays, the American claimed her problems are due to facing a series of once in a lifetime performances.
"I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me," Serena said.
"So I just have to always, every time I step on the court, be a hundred times better. If I'm not, then I'm in trouble.
"Just because you lose a match doesn't mean you stop. You just got to keep going.
"It's never easy being in my shoes. But you got to be ready. I know that I can do better. I know that I have potential to continue to be on top. So hopefully that's what keeps me motivated, I guess."
While Williams tries to regroup, Cornet was trying to come back down to earth before she faces Canada's Eugenie Bouchard in the fourth round on Monday.
"I'm just calming down," said Cornet, who sealed her win by kissing the grasscourt.
"It's very symbolic because it means now I love the grass and I didn't before.
"If somebody would have told me a couple years ago that I would be in second week here in Wimbledon, beating Serena, I wouldn't have believed it."
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