The 22-time grand slam winner looked on the verge of tears after enduring arguably the biggest meltdown of her entire career, serving five double-faults in a single game towards the end of a 6-4 6-3 third-round defeat to Elina Svitolina.
They were among 37 unforced errors from the Wimbledon champion, whose demise capped a miserable Rio 2016 for the Williams sisters following their first-round doubles defeat and Venus’s singles loss at the same stage.
The upset against a 21-year-old Williams had crushed 6-1 6-1 at the French Open barely two months earlier also surpassed that of fellow top seed Novak Djokovic, who could at least claim to have been beaten by a major winner in Juan Martin Del Potro.
Prior to Svitolina’s triumph, Britain’s Johanna Konta had recorded arguably yesterday’s most impressive result by coming from a set down to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in a three-hour, three-set epic to move one victory from a guaranteed medal match.
Beaten in the women’s doubles with Heather Watson just 24 hours earlier, Konta bounced back to prevail 3-6 7-5 7-5 over two-time grand slam champion Kuznetova, setting up a revenge mission against Australian Open semi-final conqueror Angelique Kerber in the process.
“I’m just as far as I am close,” Konta said of her medal prospects. “I just played an incredibly long match and right now it’ll be about me recovering the best I can and being prepared for tomorrow.”
Konta, who saved triple break point at 5-5 in the decider before converting her fourth match point, added of her win: “That definitely ranks up there just because it’s my first Olympics. I feel pretty lucky and privileged that I get another chance.”
The 25-year-old will continue to fight on two fronts after it was confirmed she and Jamie Murray would enter the mixed doubles.
The decision looked like an act of brotherly love by Jamie’s brother, Andy, whose bid to repeat his twin medal success from London 2012 lay solely with entry to the mixed competition, where he won silver four years ago.
Following the Murrays’ men’s doubles defeat, it was decided to give Jamie one more chance of Rio glory via Britain’s only guaranteed mixed spot alongside Konta.
The younger Murray and Watson’s names were also submitted for the competition but, unlike Jamie and Konta, their combined ranking was not enough for them to be entered into the draw.
Designated as second alternate, that will only change if two of the 16 pairings withdraw before the competition begins.
The call was made prior to Murray’s 6-3 6-1 singles victory over Juan Monaco, which saw him cruise into round three of his defence of his Olympic title.
“The plan was that Jamie was always going to play with Jo and that was it,” said Murray after setting up a clash with Benoit Paire or Fabio Fognini.
“Obviously, Jamie’s a way more experienced doubles player than me. Jo’s obviously playing well, too, so I think they’ve got a good chance of winning a medal. And there’s an outside shot that me and Heather could potentially get in as well. (Courtesy The Telegraph)