WIMBLEDON, England — Venus Williams would shank a shot — and she shanked many — then turn toward the Court 1 player guest box where her parents were seated and put her palms up or shrug, as if to indicate, "I don't know what's happening here."
The five-time Wimbledon champion was out of sorts, out of answers and out of the tournament in the quarterfinals, stunned 6-2, 6-3 Tuesday by the lowest-ranked woman left, No. 82 Tsvetana Pironkova, meaning there won't be an all-Williams title match at the All England Club this year.
Williams double-faulted five times and totaled 29 unforced errors, 23 more than her solid-if-not-spectacular opponent.
"Didn't do myself any favors," said the No. 2-seeded Williams, whose younger sister, No. 1 Serena, won to reach the semifinals. "I missed all shots (Tuesday): forehand, volley, backhand. You know, if there was a shot to miss, I think I missed it."
It was the older Williams' 77th career singles match at the All England Club — she participated in eight of the past 10 finals, losing to her sister three times, including in 2009 — and never had she won so few games. The only time she had lost at Wimbledon to someone ranked lower than Pironkova was on June 28, 1997, when she lost her tournament debut to No. 91 Magdalena Grzybowska.
All that kept this from being considered one of the biggest upsets in history is that Pironkova had done it before: She defeated Williams at the 2006 Australian Open.
"I don't even really remember anything from last time," Williams said. "Obviously, she's played well to get this far, but I don't think I did anything right."
Williams has seven Grand Slam titles, seven runner-up finishes at majors and a stint at No. 1 in the rankings. Pironkova, 22, had never made it beyond the second round in 18 Grand Slam events and has never made the final at any tournament.
"No one expected me to (reach a) semifinal in Wimbledon," Pironkova said, "and to beat Venus Williams like that."
But Pironkova, who's coached by her father, must have 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) semifinal looked, to me, very far."
On Thursday, Pironkova will face No. 21 Vera Zvonareva, who added to the topsy-turvy day by coming back to oust No. 8 Kim Clijsters 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Unlike Pironkova, Zvonareva can boast of some experience at this stage, having reached the 2009 Australian Open semifinals.
On the other side of the draw, defending champion Serena Williams smacked 11 aces — lifting her tournament total to a Wimbledon-record 73, one more than she hit last year — and made only six unforced errors in a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 9 Li Na.
"I haven't seen her serve that well in a while," said the sisters' mother, Oracene Price, who joked that "they're stealing some aces from Serena; we're counting."
That Centre Court match began after Pironkova's victory was completed, so tennis' most successful siblings crossed paths in the locker room. Venus, who had just lost, and Serena, about to play, chatted, already aware they would not meet in the Wimbledon final for a fifth time.
"I don't know if it affected my play too much," Serena said.
She next faces yet another unheralded member of this year's final four, 62nd-ranked Petra Kvitova, who saved five match points and erased third-set deficits of 4-0 and 5-2 to eliminate 80th-ranked qualifier Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 8-6.
"I play now very well, my best tennis in my life, my career," said the left-handed Kvitova, who knocked off No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Victoria Azarenka and No. 23 Zheng Jie en route to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Asked if she thinks she can win the title, Kvitova, 20, 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 semifinals for the first time since 1999.