|ESPN.com: French Open 2012||[Print without images]|
|Serena Williams, above, was 46-0 in first-round matches at Grand Slams before Tuesday's stunning loss to Virginie Razzano at Roland Garros.|
“It sure seemed she'd be OK when up 5-4 in the second set and at 15-30 on Razzano's serve. The match was about 1½ hours old -- only halfway through, it would turn out -- and Williams was two points from ending it. Razzano responded with an ace. At 6-5 in that set, Razzano showed real jitters, double-faulting twice in a row to again make it 15-30. Again, Williams was two points away. And again, Razzano held serve to extend the match. Then came the tiebreaker, with Williams apparently in control. At 5-2, Razzano hit a shot near the baseline that Williams let go, thinking it was out. But the chair umpire, Eva Asderaki, ruled the ball was in. Asderaki overruled a call on the next point, too, helping Razzano. Asderaki would play a key role, first warning Razzano for hindrance, then twice awarding a point to Williams because the Frenchwoman grunted loudly while exerting herself during extended exchanges. Williams found the whole thing sort of bemusing: Asderaki was the chair umpire who immediately -- with no warning -- took a point away from Williams during her loss to Sam Stosur in September's U.S. Open final. "Well, you know, she's not a favorite amongst the tour," Williams said. "I just really had a flashback there." A surging Razzano led 5-0 in the third set, but Williams -- as gritty a competitor as there is in her sport -- didn't go quietly. She got within 5-3, and that's when the epic game came, as much a test of will as anything. Razzano, looking gassed, grabbed at her legs between points and double-faulted to make it 30-all. A 13-stroke point followed, and Asderaki interrupted play to make it 30-40 because of hindrance. The partisan fans jeered, whistled and banged their palms against the stadium's plastic green seats. That set up Williams' first break point, but she sent a return wide. Moments later, Razzano had her first match point but double-faulted. That established a pattern. Eventually, on the 12th deuce of the game, Williams dropped a forehand into the net. And on match point No. 8, she sailed a backhand long. That was it. Razzano skipped to the net for a handshake, thrilled to have beaten Williams -- and to have avoided what would have been her 21st first-round departure in 47 major tournaments. Williams' shoulders slumped. For the first time in a Grand Slam career that began at the 1998 Australian Open, when she was 16, Williams heads home after only one match. And this was one she had in her grasp.
I know of her story and her husband. We all have stories. I mean, I almost died, and Venus is struggling herself. So, you know, it's life.” -- Serena Williams on Virginie Razzano
“"I never really feel anything slipping away or anything," Williams said. "I just felt I couldn't get a ball in play." It was in stark contrast to Sharapova, who completed her rout of Romania's Alexandra Cadantu in 48 minutes. The second-seeded Russian, who lost in this year's Australian Open final, finished with 18 winners to none for Cadantu but had to save three break points. "No matter how good or bad they're playing, you still have to win that match," Sharapova said. "It's always about who takes their chances." Earlier, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova defeated junior Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty 6-1, 6-2. After losing the opening game, Kvitova won six straight in the first set against the 16-year-old Australian wild card and again raced through the second set despite being broken once. "She has a big serve with kicks and good forehand," Kvitova said. "She has very good touch." The left-handed Czech won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year, and then won the WTA Championships. Although she has yet to win a title in 2012, she is seeded fourth in Paris and is expected to go deep into the tournament. "It was tough out there today," Barty said. "I didn't play my best tennis, but she didn't allow me to. I was out there giving it my all, but unfortunately just didn't come out on top today." Barty is the youngest player in the draw, one of only eight teenagers entered. The oldest player in the draw, 41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, lost to 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-3, 6-1. Sharapova didn't need to expend much energy Tuesday, but she figures that she's in good enough condition to handle what can be a grueling place to play the seven matches required to earn a Grand Slam title. Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004, the U.S. Open in 2006, and the Australian Open in 2008. The best she's done at the French Open, however, was the semifinals twice, in 2007 and last year. Getting more and more efficient on clay, Sharapova is coming off a second consecutive Italian Open title on the surface last week. In the past, Sharapova knows full well, a demanding three-set match at Roland Garros might leave her too sapped to be at her best in the following round. "For the next match, it was just like the balloon popped or something, like ... you could tell my energy level wasn't there [and I] wasn't moving so good," she said. "And that has improved a lot, and helps me mentally, knowing that I don't feel like I'm saving myself so much." The way Sharapova looks at it, she needed to focus on having better fitness and consistency from point to point, and from match to match -- and she has. "Over the years, you learn what your body can take, what it can't, what you need, how you recover better, little by little," she explained. "I mean, look, I'm not ever going to be lifting 50-pound weights anytime soon -- or ever -- but it's little things, little muscles, little explosive steps that I feel like I've improved." The 22-year-old Cadantu has never beaten someone ranked in the top 60, falling to 0-6 in such matches. She's also now 0-2 in Grand Slam matches. And the Romanian's assessment after seeing Sharapova up close? "She has a good game," Cadantu said. "She can make it here." Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
No matter how good or bad they're playing, you still have to win that match. It's always about who takes their chances.” -- Maria Sharapova