Serena upset by Srebotnik

Paris, May 30:

For Serena Williams, missed chances came in a flurry on Friday at the French Open.

She shanked overheads, hit wild volleys and squandered six break points. The net result: a stunning third-round loss to Katarina Srebotnik, 6-4, 6-4. The hasty exit matches Williams’ earliest in nine visits to Roland Garros and guarantees a first-time women’s champion.

Williams, who won the French Open in 2002, was the lone former champion to enter the draw. “I missed a lot of easy shots and a lot of key points that I felt like could have turned the match around,” a subdued Williams said shortly after the loss. “I wasn’t able to capitalise.”

Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal played for the fourth consecutive day in the rain-interrupted tournament and defeated Jarkko Nieminen 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in the third round.

The 27-year-old Srebotnik earned the biggest victory of her career. She has only one win over a player ranked higher than the No 5-ranked Williams, beating No 4 Amelie Mauresmo at Zurich in 2005.

No 1-seeded Maria Sharapova and No 2 Ana Ivanovic advanced. In the completion of a second-round match halted in the second set on Thursday because of darkness, Sharapova beat American Bethanie Mattek 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Ivanovic reached the fourth round by beating 17-year-old Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-1.

Williams, who played the day’s first match on Court Suzanne Lenglen, converted only one of seven break-point chances and was 0-for-5 in the second set. She repeatedly set up points well but failed to finish them, losing 14 of 21 points at the net.

In the final game of the first set, Williams dumped an easy overhead into the net. Four points later, she worked her way forward but blew a volley, then bent over in dismay and pressed her forehead against the tip of her racket handle. Another botched overhead cost her in the sixth game of the second set, helping Srebotnik to reach 3-3.

When Williams fell behind she turned up the volume, grunting with almost every shot and screaming in celebration when she hit a winner. But she was unable to rally, and the No 27-seeded Srebotnik kept her cool down the stretch.

In the second set, Williams hit an ill-advised drop shot into the net to lose serve and fall behind 5-4. She saved two match points in the next game, but on the third yanked a forehand wide for her 25th unforced error, then met Srebotnik at the net with a grin and handshake.

No 11 Vera Zvonareva beat Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-4, 6-2. In the completion of a second-round match, No 25 Nadia Petrova swept Alisa Kleybanova 6-3, 6-3.

Sharapova won despite 10 double-faults, giving her 27 in two matches. She finished with 51 unforced errors as she struggled to find a comfort level on clay, her least-favourite surface. The French Open is the only Grand Slam she has yet to win.

Nadal, who has been bothered this spring by a blister on his right foot, requested treatment by a trainer after the second set. He said he wanted to keep the ailment from becoming serious, and it didn’t prevent him from winning in straight sets for the third time this week.