Twelve months ago, Virginie Razzano arrived at Roland Garros mourning her fiance who died just five days before the tournament started. On Tuesday, she opened a new emotional chapter in her French Open story when she sent 13-time Grand Slam title winner Serena Williams crashing to her first ever loss in an opening round at a Grand Slam.
Such was the challenge that the 29-year-old, ranked 111 in the world, couldn’t sleep for three nights before the match. It was a clash which had looked like a routine victory for the American when she led by a set and 5-1 in the second set tiebreaker, but through sheer willpower became a memorable 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 victory for Razzano. Adding to the drama and tension was the 29-year-old needing an eighth match point to finish proceedings in a marathon ninth game of the final set after three hours of action on a spellbound Philippe Chatrier court.
“I did my mourning,” said Razzano, as she reflected on the events of a year ago when her coach and fiance Stephane Vidal passed away at the age of just 32. “It took time, but I worked with somebody and I felt I was ready to live my life both professionally and personally again. Was it destiny for me to win tonight? I don’t know but I wanted to win so much,” she added.
The loss was the 30-year-old Williams’ first exit at the opening round stage of her 47-event Grand Slam career and earliest defeat at a major since she was knocked out of the Australian Open second round by sister Venus in 1998. “I was cramping at the end but I knew I could beat her. I said ‘don’t give up’. I couldn’t sleep properly for three nights before the match,” added Razzano. “I even watched Serena on Google and YouTube. I kept telling myself that when I step on court I could do it, I could win.” Meanwhile, Venus Williams also fell in the first round after losing to Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 2-6, 3-6.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi advanced to the second round in mixed doubles event after notching up straight-set victories in the first round. The fifth seed Indo-Russian pair of Paes and Elena Vesnina routed Czech Republic’s Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak 6-1 6-1. In another mixed doubles match, Bhupathi and Sania Mirza overcame the opening round challenge with a 6-2 6-4 triumph over American pair of Raquel Kops-Jones and Eric Butorac.