She double-faulted four times in the second game, including on Sakkari’s eighth break chance, to make it 2-0
Serena Williams was flustered when she got called for taking too much time between points, flung away her racket after letting a lead slip away and finished surprisingly meekly in a 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-1 loss to Maria Sakkari at the Western & Southern Open on Tuesday night.
This was Williams’ fifth match since professional tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic after a hiatus of nearly six months – and all five have gone three sets. She is 3-2 in that stretch.
The result against No. 13 seed Sakkari, and particularly the way the match ended, was hardly promising for Williams as the U.S. Open’s start approaches next week.
The Western & Southern Open is usually held in Ohio but was moved to the U.S. Open’s site in Flushing Meadows this year to make for a two-event, no-spectator “bubble” during the pandemic.
Williams was seemingly in control early, serving for the first set at 5-3, 30-0, when things began to unravel. She missed two backhands in a row, then put a forehand into the net to set up a break point, and walked over to the stand holding her towel at the back of the court. That’s when chair umpire Aurelie Tourte called a time violation. On the following point, Williams sailed a forehand long to get broken.
At the ensuing changeover, the 23-time Grand Slam champion argued with Tourte, saying- “I mean, I’m getting my own towels. That’s not fair. You should tell me on the sidelines next time if I need to play faster. Believe me, I will. … You didn’t even give me a warning.”
While Williams eventually did grab that set, she again frittered away a 5-3 lead in the second, plus a 4-1 edge in the tiebreaker. When she sat after the second set, the 38-year-old American tossed her racket over her shoulder the way an office worker might flip a crumpled piece of paper toward a trash can.
Williams came out flat in the third set, as if she’d rather be anywhere else. She double-faulted four times in the second game, including on Sakkari’s eighth break chance, to make it 2-0 and that was pretty much that.
Women’s quarterfinal matchups set earlier in the day were two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka against Anett Kontaveit, former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka against Ons Jabeur, and 83rd-ranked American qualifier Jessica Pegula against No. 14 Elise Mertens.