Serena: 'I couldn't get my legs moving'

Serena Williams certainly didn’t look ready for the French Open on Wednesday.

The six-time Grand Slam winner was upset 7-6 (2), 6-1 by Italy’s Francesca Schiavone in her opening match at the Italian Open, an important tune-up for the season’s first major, which starts in less than two weeks.

Williams moved poorly and was overpowered by the 26th-ranked Schiavone, who had all her shots working.

Williams called it the worst loss of her career.

“This is it for me probably for sure. It won’t be happening again,” she said.

In the first-set tiebreaker, a seemingly uninterested Williams didn’t even run for a drop shot by Schiavone that gave her a set-point opportunity.

“I couldn’t get my legs moving. It was really weird.
I’ve never felt like this before,” Williams said. “I actually had a really good warmup right before the match and I thought everything would come together, but it didn’t.”

The crowd supported Schiavone and rained whistles down upon Williams, who seemed lethargic throughout the second set.

The loss extended Williams’ run of misfortune since winning the Australian Open in January.

Williams was forced to withdraw from the Paris Indoors in February with a stomach illness before her quarterfinal match.

In March, she retired from her semifinal with Jelena Jankovic due to a shoulder injury. Then in Miami, she lost to sister Venus for the first time in four years, snapping a six-match winning streak against her sibling.

Last month, Serena sprained her left ankle during a quarterfinal match with Silvia Farina Elia and retired after failing to convert three match points in a second-set tiebreaker.

Serena was not planning on playing another tournament before the French Open, although she said after the loss that she was going to rethink her schedule.

“I didn’t expect this to happen,” she said.

Earlier, Amelie Mauresmo began the defence of her Italian Open title with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Australia’s Samantha Stosur.

Fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva, who withdrew from last week’s German Open because of a left hip injury, lost 7-5, 6-4 to Gisela Dulko of Argentina in the second round.

Dementieva, runner-up at last year’s French and US Opens, has never advanced past the second round in five appearances at the Italian Open.

Seventh-seeded Nadia Petrova cruised past Italian qualifier Mara Santangelo 6-3, 6-1 in her first match since losing Sunday’s German Open final to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Petrova now faces four-time Italian Open winner Conchita Martinez, who beat Israel’s Anna Smashnova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

Also in this $1,3-million clay-court tournament, sixth-seeded Vera Zvonareva, eighth-seeded Patty Schnyder, ninth-seeded Elena Bovina and 15th-seeded Ai Sugiyama each advanced with straight-set victories; and 1997 Italian Open champion Mary Pierce eliminated Sanda Mamic of Croatia 6-4, 6-4.

Mauresmo, who is coming off a quarterfinal appearance at last week’s German Open, said she had fully recovered from a five-week layoff with an abdominal muscle injury.

She will next face 13th-seeded Farina Elia, who rallied from a 0-3 first-set deficit to beat France’s Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-3, 6-3.

Mauresmo beat Farina here last year over three sets in a rain-delayed quarterfinal.

“I hope the conditions are better this year. It will be a real test for me,” Mauresmo said. - Sapa-AFP

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