LONDON -- Walking off court on a fittingly dank and gloomy English day, Serena Williams said confusion dominated feelings she could neither identify nor express even an hour later.
"Right now, I don't really know what I did wrong," Williams said after being ousted by No. 25 seed Alize Cornet 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Wimbledon's third round Saturday. "Usually, I do. Usually, I know I did this, this and that."
"Usually" -- and maybe this is the most confusing part for those who have watched Williams over the past 17 years -- is a word we perhaps can no longer ascribe to the most dominant women's tennis player of her generation.
Usually, Williams, a five-time champion here, wins at Wimbledon. But this was the second year in a row in which she failed to make the quarterfinals. (It ties her earliest loss ever at Wimbledon, with 1998 and 2005.)
Usually, Williams rises to dominance in Grand Slam tournaments. But with Saturday's loss, it marks the worst three-Slam sequence of her career after fourth-round, second-round and third-round exits in the Australian Open, French Open and now Wimbledon. It is also the first time she has lost in the first week of back-to-back Grand Slams since 1999.
And usually, Williams turns opponents into jelly. But Cornet was masterful, aggressive, unafraid, a phenomenon Williams claimed in several matter-of-fact but annoyed declarations is not so usual at all.
"I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me ..." she 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. ...
"If I'm not playing, you know, 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. It's never easy, you know, being in my shoes. But you got to be ready."
But Williams said she was ready after her French Open shocker this spring, a tournament in which she played "really bad," she said, in a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Garbine Muguruza, the most one-sided Grand Slam defeat of her career.
"Here I actually thought I played better," Williams said. "I came into the tournament in better form. I worked really, really hard coming into this event."
More confounding was that after emerging from a rain delay tied 1-all and at deuce, Williams reeled off the next five games to take the first set of a match that appeared to be heading the way of her first two matches, in which she dropped a combined five games.
But at that point, Cornet, who defeated Williams in straight sets on the hard courts of Dubai in February, took the aggressive route while Williams retreated -- often uncharacteristically rooted behind the baseline, which made her particularly vulnerable to Cornet's deft drop shots. Williams' usually reliable serve also deserted her when she needed it most.
And Cornet said she also thought Williams "lost concentration" early in the second set.
"I used it to come back in the match, and finally I played way better from the beginning of the second set," Cornet said. "I think then the battle was on."
Cornet, 24, who equals her best Grand Slam result with Saturday's victory, seemed more shocked than anyone, kissing the court after match point.