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Tennis: Venus is not in quitting game

Venus Williams has reassured her fans that she has the desire and ability to add to her seven Grand Slam titles despite her shock Wimbledon defeat by Tsvetana Pironkova.

Williams was dumped 6-2 6-3 by the world number 82 as her quest for her sixth triumph at the All England Club ended in the quarter-finals.

The 30-year-old has not won a major title since her 2008 success at SW19 but she insists the defeat by the 22-year-old Bulgarian is not evidence she cannot win another. "I've done it before and have the experience to do it," she said. "So that's not a doubt for me."

Williams also dismissed suggestions she could be close to retirement, saying: "Why wouldn't I want to pursue this? I'm pretty good at it most days."

Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion, doubled-faulted five times, made a total of 29 unforced errors and was beaten by the lowest-ranked woman still in the women's draw.

Over and over again she would shank a shot, then turn toward the Court One player guest box, where her parents were seated, and put her palms up or shrug her shoulders. Venus has played in eight of the past 10 women's finals, losing to her sister three times, including last year. She beat Serena for the 2008 title.

Yesterday's match was the older Williams' 77th in singles at the All England Club, and never had she won so few games. The only time she's been beaten at Wimbledon by someone ranked lower than Pironkova was all the way back in 1997, when the American lost her tournament debut to 91st-ranked Magdalena Grzybowska.

Really, the only factor preventing this result from truly being considered one of the sport's biggest upsets ever is that Pironkova has done it before -- she defeated Williams at the 2006 Australian Open. Still, even the first woman representing Bulgaria to make it to the final four at a Grand Slam tournament in the 42-year Open era was not anticipating this.

"No one expected me to (reach a) semi-final in Wimbledon, and to beat Venus Williams like that," Pironkova said.

Surely, Pironkova herself believed this was possible, right? "If I have to be honest: no," she said. "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."

Well, now she's there. Tomorrow, Pironkova will face 21st seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who came back to oust eighth seed Kim Clijsters 3-6 6-4 6-2. Unlike Pironkova, Zvonareva at least can boast of some experience at this stage, having reached last year's Australian Open semi-finals.

On the other side of the draw, defending champion Serena Williams smacked 11 aces -- lifting her total for the tournament to a Wimbledon-record 73, one more than she hit last year -- and made only six unforced errors in a 7-5 6-3 win over ninth seed Li Na of China.

She next faces yet another unheralded member of this year's final four, 62nd-ranked Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who saved five match points and erased third-set deficits of 4-0 and 5-2 to eliminate 80th-ranked qualifier Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 4-6 7-6 8-6.

Asked if she thinks she can win the title, 20-year-old Kvitova replied: "I don't think so. No."

Perhaps that's because she hadn't won a grass-court match until last week.

Pironkova and Kvitova give Wimbledon two unseeded women in the semi-finals for the first time since 1999. Indeed, Serena is the only remaining woman in the draw with a Grand Slam championship; she owns 12.


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