Serena Williams out of Wimbledon

Serena Williams’s hopes of a sixth singles title fizzled out as she lost to Alize Cornet.

American professional tennis player Serena Williams. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Wimbledon great Serena Williams was sent packing by a Frenchwoman who once regarded grass court tennis as a chore but Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal illuminated the Centre Court lawn with commanding victories on Saturday.

American Williams's hopes of a sixth singles title fizzled out as she sank to a 1-6 6-3 6-4 defeat against 25th seed Alize Cornet who celebrated by kissing the Court One turf.

The result reverberated around the All England Club on a day of dark clouds and rain and blasted a gaping hole in the women's tournament which now looks wide open with second seed Li Na having departed a day earlier.

World number one Williams, 32, had not fallen before the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2005 and, after returning to court from a four-hour rain delay on day six, she seemed to charging towards the business end of the tournament.

Her power game began to malfunction and Cornet, sensing her moment, battled back with some attacking tennis to leave a strangely hesitant Williams reeling.

After watching the match slip away, Williams dug deep at the end to claw back two games to trail 4-5 but she bungled a volley to offer Cornet a match point and then netted a backhand.

"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," Cornet told reporters.

"Before it was just a pain to come here in Wimbledon. But now it's the contrary," added the 24-year-old who has reached the last 16 of a major for only the second time in 34 attempts.

The result ended hopes of an eagerly anticipated last 16 match-up between Williams and fast-rising Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who comfortably beat fellow French Open semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic 6-3 6-4.

Williams's demise would also have been noted with more than just passing interest by fifth seed Maria Sharapova, who is chasing her second Wimbledon title, 10 years after her first, and who expected to face her nemesis in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova, who has a 1-15 record against Williams since beating her in the 2004 final, took advantage of playing under the closed Centre Court roof with a 6-3 6-0 thrashing of unseeded American Alison Riske.

Germany's Angelique Kerber will now stand in Sharapova's way having beaten Kirsten Flipkens.

Williams has now lost before the quarter-finals in all three of this year's slams and time is running out on her bid to reach Steffi Graf's professional era record haul of 22 major titles.

"I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me," Williams 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.

"It's never easy, you know, being in my shoes. But you got to be ready."

Just as in his previous two matches, Nadal offered a chink of light to an opponent before switching on the after burners to race to a 6-7(4) 6-1 6-1 6-1 win against Kazakhstan's 63rd-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin and reach the last 16.

Swiss master Federer, seeking a record eighth Wimbledon title, did not give Colombia's Santiago Giraldo time of day though, continuing his serene progress to the fourth round with a nonchalant 6-3 6-1 6-3 victory.

Federer will face Tommy Robredo after his fellow 32-year-old edged out Poland's 15th seed Jerzy Janowicz 6-2 6-4 6-7(5) 4-6 6-3 in a match ending in near darkness.