Serena Williams lets big lead slip at French Open

Associated Press
USA's Serena Williams reacts shortly before losing to France's Virginie Razzano during their first round match in the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday, May 29, 2012. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
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PARIS (AP) — Even after 13 Grand Slam 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 was two points from 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 like No. 18 was in the bag late in the second set.

But Razzano won six straight points to take the set and then won five straight games in the third set.

"I just felt I couldn't get a ball in play," Williams said. "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 Nodal had no such trouble, starting his quest for a record seventh French Open title by beating Simone Borelli 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.

On Wednesday, both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will play in the second round. On the women's side, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka will be first up in the main stadium.

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. The American then reeled 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 it 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 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 on clay 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.

Last year, she lost in the semifinals.

"I feel like with every year I have improved," Sharapova said, "and I enjoy it much more."

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