LONDON: Venus Williams crashed out of the Wimbledon quarter-finals Tuesday to the lowest-ranked player left in the draw as her sister Serena and Kim Clijsters went in search of semi-final spots.
Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion and the world number two, was knocked out 6-2, 6-3 by Bulgaria`s unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova, the world number 82, who had never been past the second round here before.
In Thursday`s semi-finals, Pironkova faces either Belgian eighth seed Kim Clijsters or Russia`s 21st seed Vera Zvonareva, who were disputing their quarter-final on Centre Court.
Meanwhile defending champion and world number one Serena Williams takes on Chinese ninth seed Li Na, and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic faces Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi in the other quarter-finals.
On winning the match, Pironkova fell to the grass in delight, while Venus looked stunned as she trudged off Court One.
"It seems like a dream actually. Coming here I never thought I would play that well and reach that part of the tournament. I am extremely happy," Pironkova said.
"I think I played pretty well today. I`m very happy with my game. She also did well but I have one win over her and actually thought I could win and I was going for it.
"I really love this tournament. Every time when I come here I enjoy it."
This year will be the first time Venus Williams has not been in the final here since 2006. The American had made eight of the last 10 women`s singles finals here.
Clijsters, the former world number one, has her sights set on adding the Wimbledon title to her previous two Grand Slam crowns, both won on the hard courts of New York.
The 27-year-old, a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist, said: "I have always had a lot of respect and admired Wimbledon as a tournament. But in the past I have never had that same comfortable feeling out there as I did on a hard court in America or at the US Open.
She was taking on Zvonareva, who in progressing to the last eight has ensured that a Russian woman has reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for nine straight years.
Serena Williams said she was expecting a battle from Chinese number one Li, who has beaten her once and taken her to tie breaks in all their other four clashes.
"I`m playing another tough player," the top seed said.
"Li Na always gives me a run for my money. I just have to be positive and play more consistent.
"She gives everyone a run for her money. She`s such a tough player. She never gives up. Right when you think you have her, she comes back. She`s a player you cannot count out."
Li, having matched her best-ever Wimbledon run in reaching the last eight, said she had every intention of going one step further.
"Sure, I would like to keep going. I`m still in the tournament. I don`t want to stop right now."
The surprise quarter-final is between world number 62 Kvitova and world number 80 Kanepi, who have one tour title between them.
Aged 20, Kvitova is the youngest player left in the women`s draw. She fell at the first round at her previous two Wimbledons, and had never won on grass before going on this run.
Kanepi had never been past the Wimbledon second round before this year.
The 25-year-old is only the sixth qualifier to reach the Wimbledon women`s quarter-finals.
"Kanepi is playing very well right now," Kvitova said.
"We played already three times. Two I lost and one I won. It will be tough, but the match is open."
Kanepi, who has never won a tour title, is playing her second Grand Slam quarter-final, having made the last eight at the 2008 French Open.
BDST: 1956hrs, June 29, 2010