Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Lackluster Venus falls in second

PARIS — Used to be that Venus Williams was the one who was highly ranked, the title contender, the one who would dominate foes so thoroughly that matches would be tidily wrapped up in an hour.

Now 31 and figuring out from day to day how to handle an illness that saps her strength, Williams was on the wrong end of a lopsided 60-minute defeat in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday.

Looking glum and lacking the verve that carried her to seven Grand Slam titles, Williams barely put up any resistance and lost 6-2, 6-3 to No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska at Roland Garros. Coming a day after her younger sister, Serena, was stunned in the first round by 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano, the early exit marked the first time in 43 major tournaments with both in the field that neither got to the third round.

"I felt like I played," Williams said after making a hard-to-fathom 33 unforced errors, 27 more than Radwanska. "That pretty much sums it up."

This one was not exactly an out-of-nowhere upset, considering Williams is ranked 53rd, never has been as good on clay as on other surfaces, and is learning how to be a professional athlete with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and joint pain.

"I don't know if I ever asked myself, 'Why me?' I mean, obviously it's frustrating at times. I don't know if there's anything mental more I can do at this point, but there's a lot of stages to go through with this kind of thing," said Williams, whose fastest-in-the-game serve was broken five times Wednesday. "There's a lot of people who have it a lot worse than I do."

At changeovers, Williams would slink to the sideline then sit on her green bench with hands clasped, staring straight ahead, expressionless and motionless.

She was far more animated afterward, laughing often while discussing her condition and graciously complimenting the play of Radwanska.

"Of course, when I saw the draw, I wasn't very happy, because Venus as a second-round opponent, it's not easy," Radwanska said. "Maybe she just had a bad day here."

While never advancing past the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament, Radwanska, 23, has shown signs of being ready for a major breakthrough, with three lesser titles and a tour-high 38 victories in 2012. Of her seven losses, six were against No. 1-ranked Victoria Azarenka.

On an easy day for the top-seeded players, Azarenka breezed into the third round with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Dinah Pfizenmaier 6-1, 6-1, while the No. 1 man, Novak Djokovic, extended his Grand Slam win streak to 23 matches by beating Blaz Kavcic 6-0, 6-4, 6-4.

"Being No. 1 is a difficult job because everybody wants to catch you, everybody wants to move you from the spot," said Azarenka, pushed to three sets in the first round. "Nothing is going to come easy just because you're No. 1."

For years, Roger Federer managed to make things look easy at the top. Now No. 3, he went through a bit of a glitch and dropped a set Wednesday before earning his record-breaking 234th Grand Slam match victory, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (8-6), 6-3 against 92nd-ranked Adrian Ungur.

"I have been around for so long that, even though I expect myself to win, I can still manage to do that," said Federer, on course for a semifinal showdown with Djokovic. "Whereas in the beginning, when you think you're good but you're maybe not that good yet, you get many more surprise losses."

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