The No1 female player in the world has failed to reach the quarter-finals in any of the three grand slams this season.
Suddenly Serena Williams is not the reliable dominant force the WTA can depend on to banish previous criticisms directed towards top-ranked players who were underperforming at majors.
The 17-time grand slam champion is, this season, a major underperformer and while Williams chooses to see her early exits in Melbourne, Paris and Wimbledon as isolated incidents, one can’t help but visualise a common thread.
She may have been injured in Melbourne which contributed to her defeat to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round there, but in both her losses to Garbine Muguruza in Paris and Alize Cornet at Wimbledon on Saturday, Williams was out of solutions.
Once her serve stopped firing the way she wants it to, Williams was unable to come up with a plan to counter Muguruza’s aggression and Cornet’s variety.
Williams sounded frustrated when she said that players have been playing the matches of their lives against her, likening them to “ATP players” but Williams at her peak should be able to stand up to all of that.
The fact is, Williams has not been at her peak all season and we could be witnessing the beginning of her decline.
Against Cornet, the American – who turns 33 in September – was completely passive in the final set.
She kept returning every ball in the middle of the court, directly to where the Frenchwoman was standing and barring a brief moment of fight when she was down and receiving at 2-5, there were no signs of the Williams from the past two seasons.
Players have been throwing everything at her from the day she became a household name in tennis, and the only reason it’s frustrating her now is because, for one reason or another, she just hasn’t been good enough in important moments this season.
It may be a lack of motivation, it may be that she’s getting older, or perhaps her incredible winning run from mid-2012 until the end of last season is finally catching up with her body.
It also appears that the magic of her partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou is wearing off. Williams was asked if she will consider doing things differently if the results continue going this way but she claims that whatever needs fixing is from within – it is not an external factor.
Whatever it is, we find ourselves in a second straight grand slam where Simona Halep is the highest seed remaining in the second week.
Once again, Maria Sharapova could benefit from all this with Williams now out of her quarter of the draw.
Eugenie Bouchard is the immediate beneficiary as her fourth round has gone from being a contest against a five-time Wimbledon champion like Williams to Cornet, who is making her second week debut at SW19.
As for Williams, we should expect her to stick around because it’s hard to imagine her retiring before she grabs that elusive 18th major so she can tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova in second on the all-time list.