Serena Williams has crashed to the worst grand slam defeat of her career after she slumped to a dramatic and thrilling 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 French Open loss to France's world 111 Virginie Razzano.
It was the 30-year-old American's first ever exit at the opening round stage of her 47-event grand slam career and her earliest loss at a major since she was knocked out of the Australian Open second round by sister Venus in 1998.
On a night of unbearable tension on Philippe Chatrier Court, Williams saved seven match points in the ninth game of the nerve-jangling deciding set.
"I'm disappointed, but that's life, things could be worse," said Williams, who missed last year's Roland Garros as she battled life-threatening blood clots in her lungs.
"I've been through so much in my life. I'm not sitting here happy. I've gotta figure out what I did wrong and not do it again. I fought until the end.
"I made so many errors today which is not the game that I have been playing in the past. There is no excuse.
"I just didn't play at all the way I have been practising.
"I just felt I couldn't get a ball in play. When I did, I just felt like I was hitting late and, I mean, how can you hit late on a clay court?"
Razzano was overjoyed by her astonishing triumph.
"I didn't think too much. I know I have unlimited resources. I dug very deep and I knew nothing was lost, even when I had cramps (in the last game), even when I was not feeling well," she told a courtside interviewer.
"It's the most beautiful victory in my career.
"You (the crowd) gave me your energy. I'm gonna have to rest. Thank you all for your support."
Williams had had the late evening match in her hands when she led by a set and 5-1 in the second set tie-break as she looked set for a routine win.
But Razzano, the darling of the Paris crowd after playing the 2011 French Open just five days after the death of her fiance from a brain tumour, then reeled off the next six points of the breaker to level the match.
Amidst rising tension and emotion, Williams, a 13-time grand slam title winner, appeared to cry as she sat in her courtside chair ahead of the final set.
She then fell to pieces on the court, slipping two breaks down to trail 4-0.
Williams then had to regather herself when umpire Eva Asderaki, with whom she had angrily clashed during her 2011 US Open final defeat against Samantha Stosur in New York last year, ordered the first point of the fifth game to be replayed.
Razzano served an ace to lead 5-0, but the drama did not end there.
Williams clawed her way back to 3-5 and had a break point when Asderaki punished Razzano for hindrance for a third time for letting out a loud yelp.
She saved it and went to match point which she squandered on an eighth double fault.
A second break point, as the French girl cramped, was saved before another match point quickly followed, this time wasted through a nerve-wracked wild forehand.
In total Razzano saved five break points and on her eighth match point, Williams went long and Razzano celebrated an epic win after three hours and three minutes of action.
Razzano will face Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus for a place in the last 32.
AFPTags: tennis, sport, france First posted May 30, 2012 05:46:08