LONDON -- In likely the biggest match of Alison Riske's career so far, the 23-year-old dropped the final 11 games to Maria Sharapova on Saturday, with Sharapova moving into the fourth round at Wimbledon with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over the 44th-ranked American.
Riske, who formerly trained at Hilton Head Island's Van Der Meer Academy, gave Sharapova all she could hande early, though. The 2004 Wimbledon champion was broken in the first game and fell behind 3-1 before overwhelming her opponent.
Sharapova, who won the French Open earlier this month but lost in the second round at Wimbledon last year, clinched the match with a stinging forehand passing shot.
"I felt better as the match went on," Sharapova said. "Alison's a great grass-court player. She's had some of her best results on this surface, so I knew that it was going to be a challenge today. I had a little bit of a slow start.
"I'm just happy to be in the second week after last year's result. I wasn't satisfied. I was looking forward to coming back very soon and here I am, giving myself another chance."
Saturday's match was played with the roof closed on Centre Court, while rain held up play on the outside courts.
But the rain didn't last long enough to save Serena Williams, who all of a sudden is failing to stick around for long at Grand Slam tournaments.
Betrayed by her backhand and, more surprisingly, her usually dangerous serve, five-time Wimbledon champion Williams lost to 25th-seeded Alize Cornet of France 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
"If I'm not playing a great, great match, these girls, when they play me, they play as if they're on the ATP Tour, and then they play other girls completely different," Williams said, rolling her eyes. "It's never easy being in my shoes."
It's her earliest exit at the All England Club since 2005, when she also was beaten in the third round. Williams won the title in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
"I don't know how I did it," Cornet said. "Just with my heart -- and the help of the crowd."
The No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Williams owns 17 Grand Slam titles, one fewer than Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, but she now has departed before the quarterfinals at four of the past five majors. There were fourth-round losses at Wimbledon last year and at the Australian Open in January, and a second-round loss at the French Open in May.
"Australia, I just couldn't play. And Paris I played really bad. Here, I actually thought I played better," she said. "I'm going to have to watch this film."
Cornet also beat the 32-year-old American at the Dubai Championships in February. Still, this result was rather unexpected, given their Grand Slam careers. Cornet never had been past the third round at Wimbledon, and she only once before reached a major's fourth round, in 2009.
In the third set, Cornet led 5-2 but was broken serving for the match. On her second chance, she steadied herself, delivering a perfect drop shot on match point.
When Williams netted the response, Cornet pounded her chest with her fist. Then she hopped around Court 1, before kneeling to kiss the grass.
Cornet had been 0-13 against top-20 opponents in Grand Slam matches.
It was by far the most significant -- and surprising -- outcome on a wet day full of starts and stops.
Along with Sharapova, two other past Wimbledon champions won on Centre Court, where soccer star David Beckham was in the Royal Box: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
For his third match in a row this year at Wimbledon, two-time champion Nadal dropped the first set before coming back to win, this time beating 63rd-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.
As for Federer, who has collected seven of his 17 major trophies at the All England Club, there really was never any trouble spot. He needed less than 75 minutes to eliminate 35th-ranked Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 and hasn't lost a set through three matches.
Sunday is a scheduled off-day at Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam tournament that takes a break midway through.