Serena Williams boosted her chances of winning an eighth Wimbledon and 24th Grand Slam by making the fourth round at the All England Club on Friday as big sister Venus fell victim to the curse of the seeds.
Serena, seeded a modest 25 this year, enjoyed a 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) win over France’s Kristina Mladenovic to set up a last-16 duel with Russian qualifier — and fellow mother — Evgeniya Rodina.
Victory on Centre Court, sealed with a 13th ace, came 20 minutes after Venus, a five-time champion, had slumped to a 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 8-6 loss to Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands over on Court One.
Only two of the top 10 seeds remain in the women’s draw — number one Simona Halep, who plays her third round match on Saturday, and seventh seed Karolina Pliskova who is in action later Friday.
“I have worked really hard and it’s been a long arduous road,” said Serena, playing in just her second Slam since the birth of her daughter Olympia last September.
“At this stage of my career, it doesn’t really matter who I face, every opponent is playing their A-game.
“A lot of top players have lost. Technically I am not a top player although I have the wins of one.”
Venus, 38 and the runner-up last year, was worn down by Dutch 20th seed Bertens in a dramatic third round clash lasting two hours and 40 minutes.
Bertens faces Pliskova or Romanian world number 28 Mihaela Buzarnescu for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It means a lot. I still really can’t believe it. It was such a tough match and such a big fight so I’m really happy that I won this one,” Bertens said.
Also exiting was 10th seed Madison Keys, who had made at least the quarter-finals of her last three majors.
The American lost 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 to Rodina, ranked 120th in the world.
Keys and Venus joined the likes of defending champion Garbine Muguruza, world number two Caroline Wozniacki, two-time champion Petra Kvitova and US Open winner Sloane Stephens in falling in the first week.
Also eliminated in the first round was 2004 champion Maria Sharapova.
Keys lost nine games on the trot from 5-2 up in the first set to 0-4 down in the second.
She rallied to level the third-round match before Rodina sealed a maiden place in the last 16 of a major.
Keys fired 15 aces in the match but also committed 48 unforced errors.
“I have played the quallies and three matches this week which were all three sets,” said 29-year-old Rodina.
“She hits the ball so hard. I am a little surprised that I won, I was a little bit lucky.”
Later Friday, eight-time champion Roger Federer takes on German comeback specialist Jan-Lennard Struff.
The world number 64 has had to fight back from two sets to love down in his first two matches to beat Leonardo Mayer and 39-year-old Ivo Karlovic.
Defending champion and top seed Federer, by contrast, has made the third round without breaking sweat.
The 36-year-old Swiss has won 26 consecutive sets at the All England Club.
Federer beat Struff in the second round of the Australian Open in January in straight sets.