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Venus, Clijsters suffer shock exits

sports Updated: Jun 29, 2010 21:22 IST
Reuters
wimbledon

Wimbledon is guaranteed a new grand slam finalist in the women's singles after Tsvetana Pironkova and Vera Zvonareva caused huge upsets on Tuesday to set up an unlikely last-four clash.

First Bulgaria's 82nd-ranked Pironkova inflicted a heaviest ever Wimbledon defeat on five-times champion Venus Williams, winning 6-2 6-3 in front of a stunned Court One crowd, then Zvonareva trashed Kim Clijsters' hopes of a dream return.

Russian Zvonareva stormed back to win 3-6 6-4 6-2 as former world number one Clijsters, back at the All England Club for the first time since quitting the sport in 2006 to start a family, crumbled on Centre Court.

After an unpredictable French Open ended with Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone beating Australia's Samantha Stosur in an unlikely final between two grand slam final debutants, the women's Tour appears to be in a state of flux.

Defending champion Serena Williams should restore some order later when she plays China's Li Na while the fourth quarter-final pits Czech Petra Kvitova against Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi.

Pironkova, eight years younger than the 30-year-old Venus, is the first Bulgarian woman to reach a grand slam semi-final in the modern era and she was good value for her second career victory over the American world number two.

After delighting the Day Eight crowd with the variety of her game, the 22-year-old Pironkova then endeared herself to the world's media with a classy question and answer session.

"Wimbledon has always been like a religion to me," she told reporters. "And I don't think it's just for me. I think it's for all of the players."

Having never been beyond the second round of a grand slam tournament before this year's Wimbledon, Pironkova said she had arrived hoping just to win a couple of matches but now stands one match away from a dream final.

"If I have to be honest, coming here, I really just wanted to play a good game, to maybe win one or two rounds. But a semi-final looked to me very far (away)."

Zvonareva has tasted a grand slam semi-final before having reached the last four in Australia in 2009 but was still a rank outsider to beat Clijsters who had seemed on course for a repeat of her stunning US Open triumph last year.

The 25-year-old, one of the less celebrated of the Russian brigade that has invaded the latter stages of grand slams for the last decade, had lost all five previous matches against Clijsters but chose a perfect moment to snap that run.

Apart from a lapse from 3-3 in the first set she was the better player, striking fierce, flat groundstrokes into the corners to keep her Belgian opponent on the defensive.

Clijsters got lucky with two netcords as she broke back at 3-5 in the second set but Zvonareva was gifted the second set in the next game when Clijsters limply double-faulted.

Not even the crowd reacting to news of the shock on Court One could inspire Clijsters to raise her game as she continued to break down in the rallies and slipped 5-2 behind in the decider.

Zvonareva broke the Clijsters serve again to claim victory when the Belgian netted a forehand -- her 36th unforced error of a match she would prefer to forget.