The Venus Williams and Jamie Murray show is no more. In the end, it was an enthralling final set tie-break which saw their doubles adventure snuffed out by all-British pair Jonny O’Mara and Alicia Barnett on Sunday evening.
Tennis is a game of fine margins and under the milky evening sunshine at SW19, O’Mara and Barnett celebrated wildly after clinching the dramatic decider 18-16 to power through 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 into the mixed doubles quarter-finals.
It could have panned out differently had a Barnett backhand return not dribbled over the net - to the agony of Murray and Williams as they led 15-14 - which was one of five match points the duo saw go begging. It was also one of a litany of crunch moments that had a Court Two crowd utterly captivated.
The result means Williams and Murray will not emulate their famous siblings, Serena and Andy, who memorably reached the third round at the All England Club three years ago.
Earlier in the week, five-time singles champion Williams had rebuffed a reporter who questioned whether the pair’s aim was to simply better their siblings’ run in the tournament. “What kind of a question is that?” Williams asked.
Judging by the drama that played out, Williams’ and Murray’s fighting spirit was clear to see after they took the opening set comfortably, before O’Mara and Barnett showed great tenacity to claw back in the second.
There was nothing to separate the pairs in the nervy, final set tie-break that ensued, which passed by in a blur of stunning reflexes, formidable winners and gutsy returns. It all ended with a rapturous ovation for O’Mara and Bennett, with the latter visibly elated at having conquered one of tennis’ greatest champions who is still going strong at 42 despite not having played on tour since last August.
Williams left the court beaming, although unlike her counterparts who were clearly lapping up the moment, chose not to stop to sign any autographs. At 42, some have predicted she may be readying herself for retirement given that she opted not to enter the main singles draw here.
Perhaps she was dwelling on the chances the pair had spurned. Her and Murray were 4-2 up in the second set before allowing their opponents to win four consecutive games and never stepped off the momentum train.
Meanwhile, in the ladies’ draw, Tunisian third seed Ons Jabeur took one step closer in her quest to become the first African player to win Wimbledon after powering past Elise Mertens 7-6, 6-4 to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for a consecutive year.
“I have my goals very high for this tournament, so I'm going to keep doing that,” said Jabeur. “No matter who's coming, I'm going to build the fight, I'm going to fight till the end because I really want the title.”
She added: “I'm feeling good. I'm trying to enjoy myself on the practice days. The traffic here in London doesn't help much because I'm not staying in the village. But I'm enjoying having the parks around me.”
Mertens has had more prolific success in doubles and she will hope she and her partner Shuai Zhang can progress to the quarter-finals on Monday. “I will try everything in doubles,” Mertens said. “This one definitely gives me confidence to go further.”