A disastrous day for the organisers who watched as first Naomi Osaka, the world number one, and then Serena Williams, depart from the listings for this year’s title.
I would have expected to have gotten past the third round. If someone said I would only get this far, I'd have said they were a liar, Serena Williams
The biggest shock was the loss of the American who was chasing her 24th grand slam title in her bid to match Margaret Court’s record, who was knocked out 6-2 7-5 by her compatriot Sofia Kenin.
The third-round defeat was the 37-year-old’s earliest exit at a grand slam since her defeat by Alize Cornet in 2014.
“She played really well, especially in the first set where she hit pretty much within an inch of the line all the time,” a disappointed Williams, who had expectations of going deeper in Paris, said after her loss.
“I would have expected to have gotten past the third round. If someone said I would only get this far, I’d have said they were a liar,” she added.
Her hopes of making the final rose dramatically when she saw her main rival, Osaka, who defeated her for the US Open title, crash out to Katerina Siniakova 6-4 6-2. But she was unable to capitalise on her good fortune which leaves defending champion Simona Halep as the biggest beneficiary of these two results.
Williams was philosophical. “It is what it is,” she said and then opened up the possibility of her playing a grass court warm-up event. “I’m definitely feeling short on matches, and just getting in the swing of things. So I have some time on my hands, so maybe I’ll jump in and get a wildcard on one of these grass court events and see what happens.”
Kenin wasn’t even born when Williams made her Paris debut in 1998, found it hard to contain her emotions, admitting to tears later “There’s a lot of emotions now,” the Russian-born player said. “Serena is such a great champion and I have all the respect for her. I had to fight for every point.”
Williams fired 30 winners and 34 unforced errors while Kenin only committed half as many.
The very feisty 20-year-old word number 35, broke twice in the first set, celebrating every mini-triumph with a ‘c’mon’. She then went 3-1 ahead in the second before Williams, the 2002, 2013 and 2015 champion, clawed her way back to 3-3.
But Kenin grabbed what proved to be the crucial break in the 11th game and held her nerve to take victory on a second match point when Williams fired a backhand long.
“This is such a great win for me,” said Kenin after her third victory over a top 10 player.
“I don’t normally cry after a match. I had so many emotions playing on Chatrier. I have always imagined playing there and winning a match.”
As mentioned, earlier in the day, Naomi Osaka fell to world No 42 Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic who pulled off a sensational 6-4 6-2 victory.
Again, Osaka, who has admitted to have been suffering headaches for the past week, said her loss was “the best thing” as her attempt win a third consecutive major was thwarted
“Losing is probably the best thing that could have happened,” said 21-year-old Osaka, the reigning Australian and US Open champion. “I felt very tired. In the other matches I had headaches, maybe that’s the stress.
“I felt there was a weight on me. This hasn’t been the happiest of times.
“On a disappointment level of 1-10 – I am probably at a 100 at the moment.”
Osaka admitted that she had been “over-thinking” her game and her ambitions.
“I was over-thinking this calendar Grand Slam thing. It’s something I wanted to do forever but if it was that easy, everybody would have done it.”
She added: “I have to work hard now to put myself in the position to do it again.
Osaka was undone by a shocking 38 unforced errors as she finally ran out of luck in Paris having had to come back from a set down in her first two matches.
“It’s amazing, I can’t believe it, I am so happy now,” said Siniakova, who was the women’s doubles champion in Paris in 2018 alongside Barbora Krejcikova.
“I played my best tennis and I hope it continues.”