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Tennis: Serena Williams denies fitness or health issues caused her French Open exit


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

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

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

SERENA Williams has described her dramatic French Open exit at the hands of 111-seeded Virginie Razzano as "disappointing".

The former champion lost to local hero Razzano in the first round yesterday – her earliest exit from a grand slam in 47 appearances.

Razzano was two points from defeat in the second-set tiebreak when she turned the match in her favour, culminating in a tense eight-match point denouement in which the Frenchwoman ultimately beat the fifth-seeded American 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

But Serena insisted she had to take her worst grand slam appearance ever on the chin.

She said: "I tried; I kept going for my shots. It's disappointing but it's life.

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

Williams entered Tuesday having won her previous 17 matches, all on clay. She withdrew before what would have been her most recent match, a semifinal at the Italian Open on May 19, citing a bad lower back, but said on Friday she was better, then refused to place blame on that injury after being beaten by Razzano.

"No, no, no. I didn't feel anything abnormal," said Williams, who counts the 2002 French Open among her 13 Grand Slam singles trophies. "I was 100 per cent healthy."

She added that she was aware of the emotional significancance of the win on home terrain for Razzano, who lost her 32-year-old fiancé to a brain tumour last year less than a week before the tournament started.

"I know of her story – she obviously is dealing with it really well," said the 30-year-old American.

She said she could try to empathise as she herself missed the event last year owing to life-threatening blood clots in her lungs.

"We all have stories. I mean, I almost died," she reminisced before returning to dissect her match collapse after leading 5/1 in the second set tiebreak.

She then came back from 0-5 to 3-5 in the decider and saved seven match points in the following game only to hit long at the last.

Prior to the final set the 13-time Grand Slam winner had appeared to be in tears sat in her courtside chair.

Part of the frustration might have been the subconscious knowledge that sat above her was umpire Eva Asderaki, with whom she had angrily clashed during last year's US Open final defeat against Australian Samantha Stosur.

Asderaki in fact came down hard on both players on several occasions and handed Serena a break point in the final game in punishing Razzano for hindrance for a third time for letting out a loud yelp.

Even so, Serena knew she was in the stuff of nightmares with Asderaki looking on from her perch.

"Well, you know, she's not a favourite amongst the tour," said Serena.

"Was she the one that did my US Open last match last year? I just really had a flashback there," she said to laughter from the assembled media in allusion to an outburst which earned her a fine.

Going back to her own showing she indicated she knew at heart she had received her just desserts after letting the match slip.

"I just felt like I couldn't get a ball in play – how can you hit late on a claycourt?

"I have to put it in perspective. My Roland Garros so happens to be over," concluded Serena, adding she was fit and would now simply have to learn from her experience.