Coming into the French Open, Serena Williams finally appeared fit and ready to contend for her first Grand Slam title since 2010. If you placed your odds on the 13-time major champion, it’s time to find a new favorite.
That thud you heard this afternoon was the fifth-seeded Williams tumbling out of the first round at Roland Garros to France native Virginie Razzano — the 111th-ranked player in the world — 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Just as shocking as the result was the way in which Williams collapsed in the final set. She led 5-1 in the second-set tiebreak — two points away from advancing — but failed to win another point, allowing Razzano to square the match at one set apiece. After a tear-filled change-over, Williams then lost 22 of the next 24 points to fall into a third-set hole she could not escape.
The first-round exit is her first ever at a major tournament.
“I made so many errors today, which isn’t the game I was playing in the past,” Williams said. “That’s life.”
Williams committed 47 unforced errors to counter her 39 winners and landed a paltry 53 percent of her first serves. She looked sluggish and out of sorts in the second half of the match, and another strange sequence rattled her during the pivotal tiebreak.
Leading 5-2, Williams stopped playing a point, thinking Razzano’s shot had landed long. Chair umpire Eva Aseraki — the subject of Williams’ 2011 U.S. Open on-court tirade — checked the mark on the clay and ruled the ball in. Razzano took the tiebreak and stormed to a 5-0 third-set lead before holding on for what she called the best victory of her career.
It was also an emotional triumph for Razzano, who played at Roland Garros in 2011 only eight days after her fiance and coach, Stephane Vidal, died of cancer.
“I had to dig deep against a great champion and you could see until the end that she gave away nothing,” Razzano said. “I had to go and get the victory. I had to be mentally strong, and I gave my everything.”