Second seed Garbine Muguruza, bidding to add the Wimbledon crown to her French Open title, has been sensationally beaten in the second round by Slovakian qualifier Jana Cepelova 6-3 6-2 in the shock of the tournament so far.
Spaniard Muguruza, who lost to Serena Williams in last year’s final, had been one of the favourites for the title but looked lacklustre, getting only 42 per cent of first serves in and struggling with the accuracy of her baseline powershots.
She had laboured in the first round against Italy’s Camila Giorgi, winning through in three sets, but had not lost against a player ranked outside the top 100 since last year.
Muguruza’s defeat removed one of the biggest challengers to Serena Williams’s title defence and the American’s bid to equal Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 grand slams.
A time violation warning, a few spots of rain and the thunderous groundstrokes of her rival could not deter Venus Williams as she reached the third round at with a 7-5 4-6 6-3 win over Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari.
Playing an opponent who was not even aged three when she won the first of her seven grand slam titles at Wimbledon in 2000, Williams proved that it would take more than mere determination to topple the American eighth seed.
Barring a loss to an unranked Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open, Williams had not lost to a player ranked outside the world’s top 100 at a grand slam this century.
World No.115 Sakkari’s hopes of ending that run gathered momentum when she broke the 36-year-old three times in the second set.
But Williams, who dropped her serve in the seventh game of the first set after incurring a time violation warning for switching rackets, was back into her groove in the third set and set up a meeting with Russian Daria Kasatkina.
Madison Keys, the woman tipped as the most likely American successor to the Williams sisters, powered to a 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory against Kirsten Flipkens.
Fellow American Sloane Stephens, who burst on to the scene before Keys but has seen her career level off, is a round back after the 18th seed won a rain-delayed first round against China’s Peng Shuai.
Swiss 11th seed Timea Bacsinszky who had reached the quarter-finals last year, had spent Tuesday and Wednesday twiddling her thumbs but finally took to Court Three to beat Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum 6-4 6-2.
Czech 24th seed Barbora Strycova beat Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 4-6 6-4 6-4 but there was disappointment for 31st seed Kristina Mladenovic of France who lost to Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-3 6-3.
Home hope Heather Watson returned to court at one set apiece against Annika Beck but lost the deciding 12-10.