Early Roland Garros exit for Williams

Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska highest seed remaining in the women’s draw

 Defending champion Serena Williams goes full stretch in an attempt to return to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza during their second round tie at Roland Garros yesterday. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA

Defending champion Serena Williams goes full stretch in an attempt to return to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza during their second round tie at Roland Garros yesterday. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA

 

The French Open slid towards anarchy on the fourth day. The defending champion and world number one Serena Williams is out, as is her sister, Venus, joining the number two seed Li Na.

Serena’s departure means the top two seeds are gone from the draw after two rounds, the earliest such high-class cull in the tournament’s history. In a summer of doubt, the only certainty would seem to be that the next surprise is not far away.

Williams might still be the best player in the world. And she could yet add to her collection of 17 grand slam titles, her next opportunity arriving at Wimbledon in June and July. But the 32-year-old American looked anything but a champion in Paris yesterday, either during her desultory 6-2, 6-2 second-round defeat by the 20-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, when she was near tears towards the end - or in a press conference afterwards that had all the buzz of a coroner’s inquest.

Williams – who would not blame injury or the occasional gusts of wind on a grey day for her error-strewn tennis – looked beat, sounded exasperated and, once she had tetchily batted away questions about the most disappointing performance of her career, could not wait to leave a place where she has won two of her major titles.

In an opening few days of rumbling upsets hers was by some way the biggest: in 288 grand slam matches Williams has never won fewer games than the four she eked out against Muguruza, who is 35 in the world and took only two games off her when they last met, which was in the 2013 Australian Open.

Williams has some damage to repair. “I don’t think anything worked for me today,” she said. “Garbine played really well, really smart. I didn’t adapt.” However, worrying as the defeat was, of rather more concern are her prospects for the rest of the summer and, if there is no quick return to her best, what remains of her wonderful career. “I just feel like I don’t have to win another match,” she said. “I don’t have to win another tournament. Everything and every day is a bonus for me.

“Obviously I want to do the best and I want to win and I want to be the best. That’s my whole goal,” she said. “But it’s great sometimes to get knocked down because you have to get back up. I love getting back up. I love the challenge.”

When Williams is not in the mood to expand on her thinking, she is quick to let her inquisitors know. “Can we just have one more question?” she said. “I’m really frustrated. My first few months [since going out early at the Australian Open] I don’t think have been great at all. I haven’t gotten past the fourth round of a grand slam this year. I have a couple of words to describe it, but I think that would be really inappropriate so I’m going to leave it at that.”

And with that she was gone. She was not alone in her despond, though. Venus also tumbled out of the tournament yesterday, not long before Serena’s match, when she failed to build on a promising start against the talented young Slovak, Anna Schmiedlova, who beat her in the first match of the day, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Serena and Venus were due to meet in the next round. Instead their last memory of the 2014 French Open is sharing a limousine off site – as they did here in 2008, and at Wimbledon in 2011. It is as well they are the best of friends. Guardian Service

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