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Serena Williams loses in straight sets to Siniakova in Parma

Internazionali BNL D'Italia 2021 - Day Five

ROME, ITALY - MAY 12: Serena Williams of USA runs to play a forehand on day 5 of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia match between Serena Williams of USA and Nadia Podoroska of Argentina at Foro Italico on May 12, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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PARMA, Italy -- Serena Williams’ disappointing return to tennis continued when she lost in straight sets to 68th-ranked Katerina Siniakova in the second round of the Emilia-Romagna Open.

Top-seeded Williams, who accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open last week, was beaten 7-6 (4), 6-2.

She had beaten teenage qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the previous round for her first victory since defeating Simona Halep in the Australian Open quarterfinals in February. After some time off, Williams then lost in straight sets in Rome to Nadia Podoroska.

Williams is preparing for the French Open in Paris which starts on May 30.

“I didn’t do a lot of mistakes, and I think she felt it,” Siniakova said. “I think she was trying to go harder and doing a lot of mistakes, which helped me. I’m really happy I could keep my level all match.”

Siniakova saved a set point at 5-4 down in the opening set and that appeared to give the Czech player confidence as after securing the tiebreak she pulled away in the second to win 16 of the last 18 points.

The 39-year-old Williams racked up double faults under pressure and Siniakova sealed the result on her third match point when the American hit a forehand long. Williams had seven double faults for the match.

“It’s amazing, it means a lot to me,” Siniakova said after the sixth Top 10 victory of her career. “I played (an) amazing match. It shows me that I can play like this, I can play well. I just need to try be more focused every time and to stay calm and ready for every point. I will be really happy if I could keep it like this.”

Former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens reached the quarterfinals after rallying to beat fourth-seeded Daria Kasatkina 1-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Third-seeded Coco Gauff eliminated Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) in a first-round match. Second-seeded Petra Martic also got her Parma campaign off to a good start by beating Varvara Gracheva 6-4, 6-2.