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

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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."

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Kings no longer have DeMarcus Cousins to blame for dysfunction

Kings no longer have DeMarcus Cousins to blame for dysfunction

NEW ORLEANS – Now that DeMarcus Cousins is finally gone from the Sacramento Kings, after six-plus long years of failure and acrimony, it’s all on them to prove that the three-time All-Star dubbed “Bad Attitude” was the problem.

In typical Kings fashion, they upstaged the All-Star Game itself Sunday by executing a trade to send Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and a first- and second-round draft pick.

Monday, GM Vlade Divac said this at a news conference that made the deal official: “It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization. Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward."

The thinly veiled shot at Cousins lacking proper character aside, Divac is going to have a difficult time spinning it. While what he said might be true, it doesn't appear to be a good return for a known quantity in Cousins, who is averaging a career-high 29.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and a career-high 5.1 assists. For this deal to work out in the Kings' favor, it requires good decsion-making from a front office that seems immune to sound judgments.

[RELATED: Kings trade DeMarcus Cousins]

Cousins had eye-popping numbers, but there were drawbacks such as 45.1% field-goal shooting for a 6-11 big man -- at least 10 points below where it should be -- and just a 24-33 record to show for it.  Defensively, Cousins' effort alone leaves much to be desired. But ever since Cousins was taken fifth overall in the 2010 draft, this marriage hasn’t worked.

Given where the Pelicans (23-34) are, this move represents a no-lose situation for them. They landed another All-Star to play next to Anthony Davis and were able to keep point guard Jrue Holiday in the process.

Cousins’ value around the NBA clearly wasn’t as high as most people liked to have believed. And the Kings’ bad roster decisions, coaching hires and handling of Cousins had as much to do with his decreasing value as Cousins himself. They undermined their own leverage with him in the market.

Owner Vivek Ranadive loves Hield as much as he did Nik Stauskas. The Kings tried to trade up to acquire Hield last year before New Orleans nabbed him with the No. 6 pick. He averages just 8.6 points and shoots 39.2% from three-point range. 

Stauskas was the No. 8 overall pick of the Kings in 2014, He lasted one season before Ranadive, who made the pick, got bored of him and sent him on his way. Stauskas is now with the Philadelphia 76ers with a career average of 7.1 points and 34.1% shooting from three.

It's difficult to be optimistic about anything that the Kings do. They waived Matt Barnes to facilitate the deal to gt Hield and Evans. And truth be told, despite Barnes' public perception he's regarded as a great teammate and locker rook influence by other respected veterans in the league.

Now Cousins has a chance to put another nail in the coffin of the Kings under the Ranadive-Divac regime and prove he wasn't the primary problem. They'll have no one to blame anymore, except each other.

[RELATED: John Wall reacts to DeMarcus Cousins' trade]

TOMBOY: Q&A with Leila Rahimi

TOMBOY: Q&A with Leila Rahimi

BY LEILA RAHIMI, CSN CHICAGO

What experience had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why?

This is going to sound like an odd answer, but surviving various challenges in our business.

I’ve gone through everything from having to get a police escort to shoot video when I was a news reporter, only to be suspended from being on-air because acquiring the escort made me late for a 5:00 p.m. deadline on a 10:00 p.m. show. That supervisor who made the decision was also sued for gender discrimination by a previous employee.

In another market I dealt with a mass layoff after we’d have to hear about what happened in court proceedings regarding our station on Twitter. Then there was the simple, but not easy, task of shooting video every day with a 35-pound camera and 18-pound tripod for seven years in several different markets.

Who’s had the biggest impact and why?  

The person who has the biggest impact on your career in this business… is yourself.

CSN TOMBOYELEVATING THE DISCUSSION OF GENDER AND SPORTS

What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?

When I was a “one-man-band,” where you shoot video, edit and report it, and I carried the gear around, I’d get a lot of “that camera is bigger than you are” discussion.

I’d just laugh it off. I’ve had a guy accuse me of using my looks to get hired at a radio station because they didn’t get the NASCAR results fast enough (this is when we’d get updates from a wire service faster than the internet would refresh them). That made me laugh.

What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced? The one that got you fired up or perhaps made you think about quitting.

Various moments will make you question your employment in TV.

You just have to keep going.

Have you had any teachable moments?  i.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended– until you said something?

Sadly I don’t have much of a filter, so when someone makes a comment and I get upset about it, they know pretty quickly. I’m the one who should probably look into that more on my end than the other way around.

CSN TOMBOYTHE IMPORTANCE OF DIRECT COMMUNICATION

Any awkward moments?   

I’ve had people ask about my dating availability.

I say I don’t want to lose my job. That makes it pretty self-explanatory.

What frustrates me is when I’d be having a perfectly normal conversation with an athlete and if I was talking to that person “too long,” I’d worry that someone would think something wasn’t right with the situation, that it would look suspicious.

When in reality, we were probably talking about Target or something very basic like that, or someone was teaching me something about the sport they play, or there was a play during a game they wanted to describe, etc. Simply because I’m a woman and the athlete is a man, it could “look bad.”

What are you most proud of?

Again, I’d say surviving. This business is hard on relationships, personal lives, self-esteem, you name it.

A lot of girls look up to you- and aspire to be on TV covering sports…..What is the most important message you want to send to them?

The obsession with looks in our business has really increased since I started out.

That may sound weird given that it’s TV, but I’ve been told I won’t get a lot of jobs because I’m not blonde. It’s true. I didn’t get some chances because I didn’t have a certain look. But don’t get discouraged. Don’t go changing because someone else wants you to. “Do you,” and know that the biggest asset is always knowledge.

If you want to be taken seriously, read and watch as much sports as possible.

That’s how you stay employed.