French Open Shocker: Razzano Beats Serena
Published May 29, 2012 12:00
PARIS, France - Going in it seemed like a David and Goliath kind of thing, with this year's clay court queen taking on a player who wasn't even in the Top 100 - but in the end of an absolute epic battle Virginie Razzano hurled the biggest stone, stunning Serena Williams in the first round of the French Open.
Maybe Razzano wasn't that much like David - she had been ranked as high as No.16 before with a slew of Top 10 wins to her name, including three Top 5 wins - but she had finished the last two years at No.116 and No.85, coming into this event a lowly No.111. Not many gave her a shot against the World No.5.
Williams, who had gone 17-0 on clay this year - and perhaps more dauntingly had gone 46-0 in her career in first round matches at Grand Slams - was on the verge of victory, having won the first set and building a 5-1 lead in the second set tie-break, but that's when the tides turned in a big way for the former No.1.
In an inspired yet bizarre turnaround Razzano won six points in a row to take the second set tie-break; she then won five games in a row for 5-0 third set.
When one of the greatest fighters in the game is your opponent, it's probably not over just yet. Williams clawed her way back and cut Razzano's lead to 5-3, then fended off seven match points in an incredibly dramatic game, even saving two of them with winners; but a backhand long on the eighth match point put an end to the center court marathon. Jeu, set et match Razzano, 46 76(5) 63.
"In my mind I just never lost," Razzano said afterwards. "Yes, it was 5-1 in the tie-break, but in my mind I knew I could win this set. I knew I could come back, and I knew I had to do that. You don't need to think about other things, you just try to come back and try your best every time, on every point.
"After, if she played too well, I could say I did my maximum, and she wins. But I believed I could win. Even at 5-1 in the tie-break, I knew I hadn't lost yet.
"It was happiness, pure happiness. It's the most beautiful victory of my whole career, especially on Court Philippe Chatrier in front of the whole crowd."
And the 29-year-old did her homework. "I believe I prepared myself well. I've only played a few matches lately, but I practiced a lot, spent a lot of time on court, and prepared physically also. I watched videos on Google and YouTube two days ago - I watched her matches in Rome. You need all this preparation.
"When you play a player like her, you can't play without preparing yourself."
It was a defining victory for Razzano, who just over a year ago lost her fiancé and coach Stéphane Vidal to a brain tumor. "Maybe it's a new Virginie," she added. "I've made a lot of good work on myself from last year to this year."
Williams put the loss in perspective. "It's disappointing, but it's life," she said. "Things could be a lot worse. I haven't had the easiest past six months. It's nothing I can't deal with. My Roland Garros happens to be over, but I'm in mixed doubles, so hopefully I can do better and win a match in that event.
"I'm not happy, by any means. But I just always think things could be worse."
Other winners as the first round wrapped up Tuesday included No.9 seed Caroline Wozniacki, No.16 seed Maria Kirilenko, No.22 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No.23 seed Kaia Kanepi and No.28 seed Peng Shuai. Wozniacki eased past former Top 15 player Eleni Daniilidou, 60 61, and has now won an impressive 20 Grand Slam first round matches in a row.