, FRANCE, May 30 – Fifth seed Serena Williams crashed out of the French Open on Friday losing a third round tie 6-4, 6-4 to Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia.
It was the first time the 26-year-old American had gone out of a Grand Slam tournament at such an early stage since the 2006 Australian Open.
She was the major casualty in the women’s tournament early Friday as the top two seeds, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, both progressed. The former reached the third round and the latter moved into the last 16.
Ivanovic, who lost last year’s final to Justine Henin, looked comfortable, after a sluggish start, in despatching rising Danish player Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-1.
But Sharapova, seeking to complete her career sweep of Grand Slam titles in Paris, struggled badly for the second straight round before scraping past lowly-ranked Bethanie Mattek of the United States 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 in a match held over from late Thursday.
Williams looked out of sorts from the start of her tie quickly falling a service break down as the 27-year-old Srebotnik, who had lost her three previous meetings against the American, cleverly mixed her shot-making.
It was a similar story in the second set as Williams, the 2002 champion here when she beat sister Venus in the final, hung on grimly only to drop her serve again fatally in the ninth game.
Srebotnik let two match points slip by at 40-15, but clinched it on the next one as Williams hit a looping forehand wide.
It was the biggest win of Dubai-based Srebotnik’s career taking her into the last 16 at Roland Garros for only the second time in 10 attempts.
The 27th seed will play the winner of the match between Emilie Loit of France and Patty Schnyder of Switzerland for a place in the quarter-finals.
"It helped a lot that I already played her two or three months ago in Charleston. I learned a lot from that match," she said.
"I played tactically well. I dug deep and played well on the big points. With the nerves and everything I did really well today."
Williams said she was at pains to explain how she had failed to fathom out how to get on top of her opponent.
"I just felt like I missed a lot of easy shots and a lot of key points that I felt could have turned the match around. I wasn’t able to capitalize on that," she said.
"She was getting a lot of balls back and I might have let that get into my head. I should have just have made my shots. She was making some shots I don’t think she’s ever made before or she probably would be in the top two."
Sister Venus, the eighth seed, was scheduled to play the last match on the Philippe Chatrier Centre Court against Italian claycourter Flavia Pennetta who beat her in Bangkok last year the last time they played.
Ivanovic, who had been struggling for form coming into Roland Garros, took a few games to get going against the 17-year-old Wozniacki, but found a higher gear in the second set after edging the opener.
"It wasn’t a great start. She gave me a tough match and I struggled to find my rhythm," she said.
"I had to be aggressive and step up to the net, but I was so happy when I lost that service game at 4-3 that I stayed calm.
"In the second set I started to do a little bit better and started moving into the net. I feel I have my game now. I am feeling better and better."
Sharapova had spent the night one set ahead, but a break down 2-3 in the second against Mattek, who is better known as a doubles player. The American duly levelled the score at one set all when they got back on court.
The world No.1 moved into a 3-0 lead in the decider, but once again her serve let her down badly allowing Mattek to get back into the reckoning.
But from 3-2 up, Sharapova opened up with her groundstrokes and blasted a way past the outgunned American.
She will now face Italian Karin Knapp for a place in the last 16.