Capitals

Kastles' Serena Williams loses in 1st round at French Open

775674.png

Kastles' Serena Williams loses in 1st round at French Open

PARIS (AP) -- For more than a decade, whatever the state of her health or her game, no matter the opponent or arena, Serena Williams always won first-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments.Always.Until Tuesday at the French Open. Until Williams came within two points of victory nine times, yet remarkably failed to close the deal against unheralded and 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France.Until a theatrical, 23-minute final game filled with 30 points, more than enough for an entire set, featuring ebbs and flows, high-pressure shotmaking and nerves -- and even thunderous protests from the crowd when the chair umpire docked Razzano a point. That look-away-and-you-miss-something game included five wasted break points for Williams, and seven match points that she saved, until Razzano finally converted her eighth, 3 hours and 3 minutes after they began playing.All told, until Tuesday, Williams was 46 for 46 in openers at tennis' top venues, and those encounters tended to be routine and drama-free, befitting a woman so good that the goal -- and 13 times, the end result -- was a major championship.Not this time. Now Williams' first-round Grand Slam record is 46-1 after as stunning a denouement as could be in a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 loss to Razzano on the red clay at Roland Garros.The fifth-seeded Williams, considered by many a pre-tournament favorite, led 5-1 in the second-set tiebreaker, before dropping the next 13 points in a row. Suddenly, her shots didn't always carry their usual oomph; her court coverage was ordinary."I've been through so much in my life, and ... I'm not happy, by no means," said Williams, her eyes welling with tears. "I just always think things can be worse."The 30-year-old American returned to action last year after missing about 10 months because of a series of health scares, including two foot operations and blood clots, a scary stretch she says altered her worldview.The rowdy spectators in Court Philippe Chatrier would have been pulling for Razzano anyway, of course, because of her citizenship. But their support was particularly strong because of her recent heartbreak, well-known in France: Razzano's fiance -- Stephane Vidal, also her longtime coach -- died at age 32 of a brain tumor in May 2011, a little more than a week before her first-round match at last year's French Open.He had encouraged her to go ahead and enter the tournament, so she did, honoring his memory by stepping on court to play, a black ribbon pinned to her shirt. When she walked out of the locker room for what turned out to be a straight-set loss, she wore a gold chain that Vidal had given her as a Valentine's Day gift a few years earlier."Honestly, the past is the past," Razzano said Tuesday, when she dealt with leg cramps starting in the second set. "I think now I did my mourning. I feel good today. It took time."Said Williams: "I know of her story and her husband. We all have stories. I mean, I almost died, and Venus is struggling herself. So, you know, it's life. You know, it just depends on how you deal with it. She obviously is dealing with it really well."Williams' exit was by far the most newsworthy development on Day 3 at Roland Garros, where Maria Sharapova won 6-0, 6-0, and Rafael Nadal began his bid for a record seventh French Open championship with a straight-set victory.Williams entered Tuesday having won her previous 17 matches, all on clay. She withdrew before what would have been her most recent match, a semifinal at the Italian Open on May 19, citing a bad lower back, but said on Friday she was better, then refused to place blame on that injury after being beaten by Razzano."No, no, no. I didn't feel anything abnormal," said Williams, who counts the 2002 French Open among her 13 Grand Slam singles trophies. "I was 100 percent healthy."Occasionally after losing points, Williams would bend forward and lean on her racket frame, as though perhaps stretching her lower back. She also clutched at that spot and whacked her racket there after miscues.And there were plenty of those, 47 in all, 11 more than her foe. That's where Williams put the emphasis when trying to fathom how she let her big lead slip away. From 5-1 in the tiebreaker, she lost the next six points to end that set, then the first seven points of the third."I tried. I kept going for my shots, which always works for me," Williams said. "It didn't work out today."It sure seemed she'd be OK when up 5-4 in the second set and at 15-30 on Razzano's serve. The match was about 1 hours old -- only halfway through, it would turn out -- and Williams was two points from ending it. Razzano responded with an ace. At 6-5 in that set, Razzano showed real jitters, double-faulting twice in a row to again make it 15-30. Again, Williams was two points away. And again, Razzano held serve to extend the match.Then came the tiebreaker, with Williams apparently in control. At 5-2, Razzano hit a shot near the baseline that Williams let go, thinking it was out. But the chair umpire, Eva Asderaki, ruled the ball was in. Asderaki overruled a call on the next point, too, helping Razzano.Asderaki would play a key role, first warning Razzano for hindrance, then twice awarding a point to Williams because the Frenchwoman grunted loudly while exerting herself during extended exchanges. Williams found the whole thing sort of bemusing: Asderaki was the chair umpire who immediately -- with no warning -- took a point away from Williams during her loss to Sam Stosur in September's U.S. Open final."Well, you know, she's not a favorite amongst the tour," Williams said. "I just really had a flashback there."A surging Razzano led 5-0 in the third set, but Williams -- as gritty a competitor as there is in her sport -- didn't go quietly. She got within 5-3, and that's when the epic game came, as much a test of will as anything.Razzano, looking gassed, grabbed at her legs between points and double-faulted to make it 30-all. A 13-stroke point followed, and Asderaki interrupted play to make it 30-40 because of hindrance. The partisan fans jeered, whistled and banged their palms against the stadium's plastic green seats (they booed Asderaki when she walked off at match's end).That set up Williams' first break point, but she sent a return wide. Moments later, Razzano had her first match point but -- gulp! -- double-faulted. That established a pattern.Eventually, on the 12th deuce of the game, Williams dropped a forehand into the net. And on match point No. 8, she sailed a backhand long.That was it. Razzano skipped to the net for a handshake, thrilled to have beaten Williams -- and to have avoided what would have been her 21st first-round departure in 47 major tournaments.Williams' shoulders slumped. For the first time in a Grand Slam career that began at the 1998 Australian Open, when she was 16, Williams heads home after only one match.And this was one she had in her grasp."I never really feel anything slipping away or anything," Williams said. "I just felt I couldn't get a ball in play."

Quick Links

Tom Wilson is single-handedly trying to fight every player on the Lightning in Game 7

Tom Wilson is single-handedly trying to fight every player on the Lightning in Game 7

TOM WILSON IS ALL JACKED UP ON MOUNTAIN DEW. 

17 minutes into Game 7 and Tom Wilson is already out here doing Tom Wilson things. 

First, there were these shenanigans:

Pretty standard stuff. Some anger words, some glove pulling. Nothing special. Then, friends - then it gets real:

Let this marinate a little bit. Wilson got a minor for fighting, served his time, and then IMMEDIATELY came out of the box and did literally the exact same thing. 

He punched a guys helmet off. Those helmets have straps to stay on for this exact reason, and it didn't matter. If this was medieval jousting, Braydon Coburn would be declared the loser on the spot. 

Get you a friend like Tom Wilson. 

MORE CAPITALS STORIES

Quick Links

Wizards' second pre-draft workout highlights quest for shooting, raises question at point guard

chasebballcollage.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards' second pre-draft workout highlights quest for shooting, raises question at point guard


The Wizards held their second pre-draft workout at Capital One Arena on Wednesday and the theme of this session was shooting. They hosted six players, four of which shot 40 percent or better for their college careers. Not 40 percent for their final season, like they developed a shot over the years, 40 percent for their careers.

Those four would be Aaron Holiday of UCLA, a likely first-round pick, plus likely second-round picks Devonte' Graham and Sviatoslave Mykhailiuk of Kansas, and Zach Thomas of Bucknell who may go undrafted.

One of the outliers was Moe Wagner of Michigan, who shot 39.4 percent as a junior. The other was Johnathan Williams, who shot 33.3 percent from long range in college, but impressed in the workout by knocking down more shots than expected.

Wizards executives raved about the amount of made shots in this workout and the players they chose to host help demonstrate that shooting is a need the Wizards are hoping to address. Head coach Scott Brooks said as much in his final meeting with the media following their playoff loss.

Here are some notes on the players that addressed reporters on Wednesday...

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

 - The brother of NBA players Jrue and Justin, Holiday said he is aiming to find the same success as them at the professional level. Both are good defensive players and Holiday said that is a big part of his game: 

"No pressure at all. I'm here to make my own name for myself... We all like to play defense... I just try to watch how they read guys and force guys into bad plays."

Holiday was informed his brother, Jrue, had just been named All-Defense. He was happy for him, of course.

"That's awesome. That's actually really good. I thought he would do it, too. Obviously, he's a great defender. Both of my brothers do well."

 - Bringing in Holiday was interesting because he is expected to be a first round pick and plays point guard. The Wizards, of course, already have an All-Star point guard in John Wall. Holiday acknowledged that fact, but believes he can play with both Wall and All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal:

"It was obviously a question of why they would want me, but at the same time I know they need help on the backend, coming off the bench and playing high minutes and producing while John and them aren't on the court. Or, even playing with John Wall out there... with John and Bradley Beal out there, I could space the court pretty well for them."

Holiday would have no problem beginning his career as a bench player, if that's what happens:

"If the coach tells me to come off the bench, play a lot of minutes and get other people involved, that's what I will do. I also can play off the ball as well. I think I fit pretty good."

The Wizards taking a point guard in the first round is not that crazy of an idea. They have long been in need of a viable backup point guard and Fred VanVleet of the Raptors showed how much a really good backup can help.

Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan

 - Wagner worked out with the Bulls first and has the Nets up next. He said the Wizards workout was more intense than the Bulls, which is something we heard from many prospects last year. Washington apparently puts a greater emphasis on physical conditioning than other teams.

 - A native of Germany, and a seven-footer who shoots threes, naturally Wagner grew up a big fan of Mavs great Dirk Nowitzki:

"He was kind of our MJ. He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball. He's from where I'm from, too. It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

 - Questions for Wagner surround his defense and whether he can protect the rim, as he wasn't a shot-blocker in college. Wagner said he is hoping to show teams how his mobility can help on that end of the floor:

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen. Especially with the way the league is going; switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Devonte' Graham, G, Kansas

 - Graham also worked out with the Bulls first. He has the Suns, Hawks, Rockets and Grizzlies up next. He expects to work out for 13 or 14 teams in total.

 - Graham is from Raleigh, just like Wall who was in attendance. Wall and Graham sat next to each other to chat after the workout was over:

"We're from the [area code] 919 and we all stick together. I hit him up last night."

 - Graham also knows Wizards forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. very well. They were roommates as freshmen at Kansas:

"He was a goofy dude. That was my boy, though."

 - Graham said he has been talking to Jazz star rookie Donovan Mitchell about the draft process, as he and Mitchell share the same agent.

MORE WIZARDS: 

- Diallo visits: Is the Kentucky star a good fit?
- Turgeon talks: Maryland coach talks 2018 draft
- NBA mock draft: Post combine edition

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!