CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Venus Williams couldn't dig herself out of a hole this time and lost to Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-4 at the Family Circle Cup on Thursday.
The 33-year-old Williams had fought back in each of her first two matches to advance. She seemed to follow the same game-plan in this one, rallying from a set down to win the second set and lead 2-1 in the third.
That's when the 20-year-old Canadian, took over, breaking Williams' serve twice down the stretch including the final game.
"She played a lot more consistently than I did," Williams said. "I think my errors really hurt me a lot today. Just a lot of up and down, a lot of errors."
Williams' defeat was part of a difficult day for past champions of the clay-court event. Along with 2004 winner Williams, two other previous Family Circle champs in Sabine Lisicki (2009) and Samantha Stosur (2010) lost third-round matches.
Lisicki, the fourth seed, fell to German countrywoman Andrea Petkovic 6-1, 6-0. Stosur, seeded seventh, was beaten by No. 9 seed Lucie Safarova 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The only previous winner of the five entered — two-time defending champion Serena Williams was ousted on Tuesday night — still around in the quarterfinals was No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic, the 2007 winner here who defeated Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5, 6-1.
Bouchard finished off Venus Williams by reaching her opponent's drop shot and pushing it into the open court for her first victory over the seven-time Grand Slam champion.
"I think I've shown to myself how mentally strong I can be," said Bouchard, seeded sixth at the Family Circle. "Today was really a mental battle. It was a bit ugly at times and tough on the court, but I fought through it."
Especially in two key stretches when it looked as if the 33-year-old Williams was ready to take control.
Bouchard was ahead 5-3 in the opening set when Williams rallied and held two set points in the tiebreaker. But Bouchard won the next four points, including a crisp backhand for a winner to secure the set.
When Williams moved on top in the third set, Bouchard did not panic but dug in to move on to her third quarterfinal round this year.
"I've just kind of raised my game a little bit and was extra solid on those important points," Bouchard said.
Bouchard will next face Jankovic, who at No. 8 in world is the highest-ranked player remaining in the tournament.