Double fault for Williams sisters
PARIS -- Sorry, there will be no match between the Williams sisters at this year's French Open. But don't lose hope, sibling fans. There are always the Bryan brothers in doubles. Or perhaps the young Federer sisters and their newborn brothers could break away from their nannies for an intriguing mixed doubles match. (Don't expect many powerful returns from the 3-week-old boys, though).
With the possibility of a third-round matchup between the Williams sisters looming, both lost on the same day Wednesday, which is about as rare as none of the Baldwin brothers doing anything stupid in a 24-hour period. The last time Serena and Venus lost the same day of a Grand Slam was at Wimbledon in 2011, but at least that was in the fourth round. This was the second round. The Wright brothers remained airborne almost that long on their first flight.
It wasn't especially surprising to see Venus lose to 19-year-old Anna Schmiedlova, but Serena? She's the No. 1 player in the world and the reigning French Open champ. Yet barely an hour after her big sister lost, Serena was embarrassed 6-2, 6-2 by 20-year-old Garbine Muguruza. It took just 64 minutes.
If it was a bad day for Venus and Serena, imagine how their mother, Oracene Price, felt while watching both matches from the stands. Well, she watched part of Venus' match on Philippe Chatrier. She had her eyes closed for a portion of the final set. She probably should have kept them that way for all of Serena's match over at Suzanne Lenglen.
Muguruza, meanwhile, had her eyes wide open. She lost to Serena in their previous match last year, but said Williams was her favorite player growing up. "Since I was a child, I thought, 'Oh, I want to play against Serena on center court,' and today was the day, and I think I did very good," she said.
And much, much better than Serena. The four games Serena won against Muguruza are the fewest she has won in her 288 Grand Slam matches. Her previous fewest was five -- three times, most notably against 17-year-old Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004.
Serena withdrew from Madrid with a left thigh injury but said there were no physical problems Wednesday. Regardless, she looked nothing like the player who has won 17 Grand Slams. She had 29 unforced errors and won just 55 percent of her first-serve points. It appeared she might have a slight chance to rally when she won the fourth game in the second set to make it 3-1, but quickly dashed those thoughts when she double-faulted twice and lost the next game. At one point in the match, she could be heard shouting to herself, "I can't serve!"
Did she mean that an injury or something was preventing her from serving? No, Serena said after the match, "I just can't serve. My serve hasn't been good this -- I can't say 'this whole tournament' because my tournament didn't last long."
At least she has some company there. Serena's ouster followed No. 2 seed and Australian Open champ Li Na's first-round exit Tuesday (men's Aussie champ Stan Wawrinka also lost in the first round here). This is the first time in the open era that the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds both failed to advance to the third round. After winning the French and US Opens last year, Serena hasn't gotten past the fourth round in this year's two majors.
Asked to describe her season, Serena replied, "I have a couple words to describe it, but I think that would be really inappropriate."
Aging would have been an appropriate word for sister Venus, who looked every bit her nearly 34 years -- and then some.
Venus won the first set and led 2-1 in the second before youth took over. While Schmiedlova energetically bounced around on her feet, Venus appeared old and tired as their match wore on. Everything looked difficult and painful, even her winners. She repeatedly threw back her head and opened her mouth in exasperation. She is now 2-6 in three-set matches this year.
Instead of her familiar grunts, it wouldn't have been surprising to instead hear Venus shout at Schmiedlova to get off her lawn. (Errr, clay.)
Had the two sisters met in the third round, it would have been their first such match in a slam since Wimbledon in 2009. While Serena said she didn't give that possibility any thought, Venus did. "I felt like this was a match that I was most likely going to win,'' she said. "I don't know how Serena felt, but I'm sure she feels like that every time she goes on the court. So I think our expectation was to play in the next round.''
Well, there were at least two people who didn't want to see that. As excited as she was to play -- and beat -- Serena, Muguruza said she won't mind playing Schmiedlova rather than the more famous Venus.
"She has less name than Venus, but, you know, every match here in a Grand Slam, you're so nervous,'' she said. "I mean, today I was really nervous. Today you go to the court thinking, 'OK, I don't have nothing to lose, I'm playing against No. 1 in the world.' You don't have expectations. But the next round is really the difficult one, because, you know, everybody is thinking, 'Oh, she just won a really good match. Now you have to win.'
"So the next match is really difficult, and I don't care who I'm playing.''
Easy to say now that there are no more Williams sisters around.