By Bill Scott –
PARIS — Title favorite Serena Williams suffered her first career loss in the first round of a Grand Slam as she went down Tuesday to Virginie Razzano, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, at the French Open.
Williams, seeded fifth and a 13-time Grand Slam champion, produced her worst-ever result after losing in the second round in the 1998 Australian Open, her first appearance on the big stage. The latest embarrassing defeat came in her 47th slam.
She had won 17 matches on clay coming in but had withdrawn from her Rome semifinal this month to rest an injury.
Razzano, who tugged at heartstrings a year ago when she lost in the first round only days after the death of her fiance, played far above her number 111 ranking.
Williams saved seven match points but went down on an eighth after a dramatic 24-minute concluding game. She had been heavily tipped as a title favorite after winning two clay titles this spring.
A huge cheer went up from the home crowd at the Chatrier stadium as their local heroine concluded her giant-killing act.
“I fought until the end. You gave me your energy,” a tearful Razzano, at age 29 making her 14th appearance at the event, told the crowd. “I’m gonna have to rest. Thank you all for your support.”
Williams accepted the loss: “I’ve been through so much in my life. I’m not sitting here happy. I just always think things could be worse. I’ve got to figure out what I did wrong and not do it again.”
The win was Razzano’s fourth from her last six meetings with top-five opponents.
Williams’ ouster opens up the draw for the other elites.
Second seed Maria Sharapova started the day by leading a charge into the second round, with the winner of two clay titles this season spending a mere 48 minutes in humiliating Romanian Alexandra Cadantu 6-0, 6-0 in the first round.
The three-time Grand Slam winner offered Cadantu a rough welcome to the world elite as the number 78 was hammered in her first meeting with a top 10 player.
“Nothing is ever easy, because you have to face whoever is across the net,” insisted Sharapova, champion at Stuttgart and Rome. “No matter how good or bad they’re playing, you still have to win that match. That was just my goal today.”
Reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the Czech fourth seed, was equally strict with Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty as she dismissed the 332nd ranked 16-year-old with a 6-2, 6-1 scoreline.
Former number one Caroline Wozniacki crushed Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 6-0, 6-1, while 2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy won a battle of veterans as the 31-year-old beat 41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-3, 6-1.
In men’s play, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer led the way for Spain with fast-track wins.
Second seed Nadal beat Italian Stefano Bolelli 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 to start his pursuit of history for a seventh title at Roland Garros.
The classic grinder Ferrer, seeded sixth, dispatched Slovak Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.
Nadal has an overwhelming 46-1 record at the event, his only loss coming in the fourth round in 2009, when he lost to Robin Soderling.
The Spaniard, who won clay trophies in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome in the run-up to Paris, reached the second round in just under two hours. The victory, his 150th at a major, came with 20 winners and seven breaks of serve against Bolelli, who committed 38 unforced errors.
“I’m very content with this start,” said Nadal, career winner of 10 Grand Slam titles. “It’s always a dream to play in Paris. All of the matches are tough here, especially in the first round.”
Fourth seed Andy Murray struggled with his game but got past Japan’s Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 7-5, 6-0.
Serbian number eight Janko Tipsarevic, who won the World Team Cup at the weekend with his team, beat American Sam Querrey 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
There were opening wins for 12th seed Nicolas Almagro, as the Spaniard beat Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, and Argentine number 13 Juan Monaco, who stopped Guillaume Rufin of France 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).