Sunday 24 September 2017

French Open: Serena suffers stunning upset at hands of Razzano

Serena Williams reacts during her match against Virginie Razzano. Photo: Reuters
Serena Williams reacts during her match against Virginie Razzano. Photo: Reuters

Serena Williams was dumped out in the first round of the French Open as unseeded home hope Virginie Razzano served up one of the biggest shocks in Roland Garros history.

Razzano, the world No 111, defeated the fifth seed and 13-time Grand Slam winner 4-6 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 in an epic tussle that lasted three hours and three minutes.

Williams' first ever defeat in the opening round of a Grand Slam event came amid occasionally controversial scenes on Court Philippe Chatrier, with Razzano twice penalised for "hindrance" after crying out in pain during points as she laboured with a leg injury.

Razzano finally prevailed in a 23-minute, 13-deuce final game, the 29-year-old converting match point at the eighth time of asking.

Pre-tournament favourite Williams looked shaky in the first set as she dropped two service games on her way to a 2-4 deficit, but the American recovered to win four in a row to take the early initiative in the match.

Razzano, a two-time winner on the WTA Tour, stopped the rot when she levelled at 1-1 in the second, and the two held the rest of the way to a tie-break.

Williams raced into a 4-0 lead in the tie-breaker, but little by little she allowed Razzano back in and when the French woman reeled off five points on the trot she took the set and levelled the match.

Williams' capitulation in the tie-breaker appeared to affect her at the start of the deciding set as Razzano raced away to a 5-0 lead.

The former world No 1, whose one and only Roland Garros triumph came a decade ago, finally held her service to trail 1-5 and broke in the next to trigger hopes of an unlikely fightback.

Another hold brought Williams to 3-5, with Razzano looking in danger of throwing her big chance away as the cramping in her legs appeared to intensify,

Razzano was faced with a much improved Williams as she tried to close out the match, the American pulling out some wonderful shots to fend off seven match points, but on the eighth Williams fired long to hand Razzano the biggest win of her career.

Meanwhile, a relaxed Rafael Nadal strolled into the second round of the men's event with a 6-2 6-2 6-1 victory over Italian Simone Bolelli. The Spaniard is always his own harshest critic and often struggles in the early rounds of Grand Slams, particularly here last year, when he was two sets to one down against John Isner before winning in five and then going on to lift the title for a sixth time.

There were no such alarms for Nadal yesterday, with his only slightly sticky patch coming when he lost two games in a row from 4-0 in the second set and had to save break points to avoid giving away a third.

Nadal said: "I was less stressed compared with last year. I was a bit frightened, but I think I took control. I felt comfortable.

"It's a court that's not easy to play on, but the longer you stay on the court, the better it is. You can find your feet. It's the first week, and I think it's one of my best first rounds at Roland Garros. I hope that in two days I'll play even better. I feel really good. I didn't do anything special, that's true, but I feel really good."

Nadal, who meets Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in round two, has had a good season, almost winning a titanic Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic and then picking up his customary clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

Last year he came into the French Open having lost four straight finals to Djokovic, including two on clay, and would go on to lose to the Serb at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

Nadal said: "This year things are simpler for me. Before matches, I look forward to them in a different way. I feel fresher than last year. My attitude is more positive."

Irish Independent

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