Friday, May 25, 2018
Sports

Historic early exit for Serena

PARIS — For more than a decade, whatever the state of her health or her game, no matter the foe or arena, Serena Williams always won first-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments.

Always.

Until Tuesday at the French Open. Until she came within two points of victory nine times, yet lost to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

The 23-minute final game had 30 points, with ebbs and flows, high-pressure shotmaking — and thunderous protests from the home fans when the chair umpire docked Razzano a point. Williams wasted five break points and saved seven match points until Razzano finally won in 3 hours and 3 minutes

All told, until Tuesday, Williams, 30, was 46 for 46 in openers at tennis' top venues, usually in routine, drama-free matches.

"I've been through so much in my life, and … I'm not happy, by no means," said Williams, her eyes tearing up. "I just always think things can be worse."

She returned last year after missing about 10 months because of a series of health scares, including two foot operations and blood clots.

This time Williams, the No. 5 seed, led 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker before dropping the next 13 points.

The rowdy fans at Court Philippe Chatrier would have pulled for Razzano, one of theirs, anyway. But their support was particularly strong because of her heartbreak, well-known in France: Her fiance — Stephane Vidal, also her coach — died at age 32 of a brain tumor in May 2011, a little more than a week before last year's French Open.

He had encouraged her to play at Roland Garros last year, so she did, losing in straight sets in the first round while wearing a gold chain that Vidal had given her for Valentine's Day years earlier.

"Honestly, the past is the past," Razzano said Tuesday, when she dealt with leg cramps starting in the second set. "I think now I did my mourning. I feel good today. It took time."

Williams' exit was by far the most newsworthy development on Day 3 at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal began his bid for a record seventh title with an easy victory, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 over Simone Bolelli. Fourth seed Andy Murray also won in straight sets and the only men's seed to fall was No. 16 Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Maria Sharapova was nearly perfect, beating Alexandra Cadantu 6-0, 6-0 in 48 minutes. No. 4 seed Petra Kvitova and No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki also moved on in straight sets.

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