Serena Williams blows big lead in French OpenPARIS - Even after winning 13 Grand Slam singles championships and dozens of other titles, Serena Williams is capable of throwing away a big lead.
Williams led 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker and got within two points of victory nine times but still lost to Virginie Razzano of France 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 Tuesday at the French Open - the first time she has ever lost in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament.
“I definitely was nervous. I’m always a little nervous in every match I play, which I think is a little bit healthy,’’ said the fifth-seeded Williams, who had been 46-0 in the first round of majors. “I was definitely a little nervous.’’
Williams entered the tournament with a 17-0 record on clay this year. And it looked liked win No. 18 was in the bag late in the second set.
But Razzano won six straight points to take that set and then won five straight games in the third.
“I never really feel anything slipping away or anything,’’ Williams said. “I just felt I couldn’t get a ball in play. You know, when I did, I just felt like I was hitting late and, I mean, how can you hit late on a clay court? It was kind of odd.’’
Defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal had no such trouble, starting his quest for a record seventh French Open title by beating Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Maria Sharapova had an even easier time, scoring a “double bagel’’ in her 6-0, 6-0 win over Alexandra Cadantu of Romania.
Williams and Razzano were last up in the main stadium on Tuesday, and they gave the fans a show. After Williams failed to close out the match in straight sets, Razzano jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third. Williams responded by reeling off the next three games, and nearly got back on serve.
In the final, 23-minute game of the match, Williams saved seven match points but wasted five break points before losing.
“I just was thinking, ‘OK, if I could break here, then we’ll be back on serve.’ You know, those are the kind of things that are going through your head,’’ Williams said.
For Razzano, the win was one of the biggest of her career. Ranked 111th, the Frenchwoman has never been past the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament.
And the win was made even more special considering the personal loss she experienced when her fiance died about a week before last year’s French Open.
“Honestly, the past is the past,’’ said Razzano, who lost in the first round last year. “I think now I did my mourning. I feel good today. It took time.’’
Just before Razzano and Williams walked out onto the clay on Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal played in the stadium where he has won six of his 10 Grand Slam titles.
One more here will break the French Open record he shares with Bjorn Borg.
Nadal was asked whether he expects Borg to make an appearance this year.
“We are in the second round,’’ Nadal said. “I have enough work to do thinking about the next round, and not think about if Bjorn will be here or if I’m going to play the final. That’s day-by-day and we’ll see.’’
Nadal improved his record to 46-1 at Roland Garros. His only loss came in the fourth round in 2009, against Robin Soderling.
Sharapova’s record is not as impressive. Although she has won three major titles, she still needs a victory at the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam. AP