Hours after world No.1 Naomi Osaka was stunned in the third round of Roland Garros, tenth seed Serena Williams suffered her earliest Grand Slam exit since 2014, losing to fellow American Sofia Kenin 6-2 7-5.
Even though the 37-year-old Williams hit ten aces to her unseeded opponent’s zero, the legend’s unforced errors outweighed her winners, while Kenin recorded six winners more than unforced errors. Moreover, Williams underperformed in break point conversion, capitalizing on just one out of seven break points she earned.
The 35th-ranked Kenin played a solid match and never allowed her nerves to take control. The Moscow-born Florida resident is now through to her first fourth round at a major and after the big result she put on a US Fed Cup cap while telling the media:
I’m proud to be an American. I think it’s great we moved to America for a better life for me.
Since reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals early into the season, the tenth-ranked Williams has played just six full matches, including the three rounds she completed at Roland Garros and the 23-time Grand Slam champion explains that the lack of match play has taken its toll:
I’m definitely feeling short on matches and just getting in the swing of things.
However, the tennis queen did praise the clean and precise game of her 20-year-old opponent:
She played really well. I feel like she, in that first set in particular, hit pretty much inches from the line. I hadn’t played anyone like that in a long time. … She just played, literally, unbelievable. She really went out there today and did great.
The draw now opens up even further for defending champion Simona Halep. When the Romanian stormed past Lesia Tsurenko in just 55 minutes early on Saturday, I mentioned that she would definitely not face another seeded opponent until the semifinals, where her obstacles could be Naomi Osaka or Serena Williams, but later in the day both these big names waved goodbye and now the seeded opponents looming in the semifinals are either No.8 Ashleigh Barty (Kenin’s next opponent) or No.14 Madison Keys.