Serena Williams suffers earliest major exit in 5 years
Top-ranked Osaka also upset; former champs Halep, Djokovic advance
Serena Williams' quest for a 24th Grand Slam title ended with her earliest loss at a major tournament in five years.
Williams was outplayed in the third round of the French Open by 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin, who used clean, deep groundstrokes to put together the 6-2, 7-5 upset Saturday.
"In that first set in particular, she hit pretty much inches from the line, and I haven't played anyone like that in a long time," Williams said. "I just saw a player that was playing unbelievable."
It was the second significant surprise in a matter of hours: Earlier in the day, No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka was eliminated 6-4, 6-2 by 42nd-ranked Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic. That ended Osaka's 16-match Grand Slam winning streak, which included titles at the U.S. Open final in September — when she beat Williams in the final — and at the Australian Open in January.
WATCH | Serana stunned by Kenin:
Osaka was trying to become the first woman to win three consecutive major trophies since Williams grabbed four in a row in 2014-15, a run that was preceded by a second-round loss at Roland Garros and a third-round loss at Wimbledon.
Since those early-for-her defeats, Williams had won six of the 14 majors she entered to surpass Steffi Graf's professional-era record of 22 Grand Slam singles championships. With 23, Williams stands one away from Margaret Court's mark for the most in tennis history; Court played in both the professional and amateur eras.
Williams, who is 37, sat out four Slams in 2017-18 while she was off the tour to have a baby. Her first major tournament back was last year's French Open, where she withdrew before a fourth-round match because of a chest muscle injury. She went on to reach the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, before wasting match points during a quarter-final loss at the Australian Open.
Williams came to Paris having played only four matches since then; she withdrew from two tournaments because of an injured left knee and another because of illness.
She struggled through her opening match at the French Open, which she has won three times, and again against the 35th-ranked Kenin, who never before had made it to the round of 16 at a major.
But Kenin played quite well, never showing a trace of nerves. It was Williams whose strokes were off-target: Her 34 unforced errors were twice as many as Kenin's total.
Osaka sent packing
Osaka's mounting mistakes just kept accumulating against Siniakova, who never had reached the fourth round in singles in 18 previous Slam appearances. She is better known for her doubles success, winning championships at the French Open and Wimbledon last year and topping the rankings.
"I mean, it's incredible. It's amazing. It's the thing I couldn't believe," said Siniakova, who will face 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys next. "It was my best tennis."
WATCH | Osaka ousted by Siniakova:
It decidedly was not Osaka's, who quickly gathered her things and headed to the Court Suzanne Lenglen locker room when the lopsided match was finished.
She wound up with a hard-to-believe 38 unforced errors; Siniakova made only 13.
And Osaka, so good lately at the biggest moments on her sport's biggest stages, wasn't able to come up with the goods on the hottest day of the tournament so far, with the temperature topping 80 degrees (approaching 30 Celsius).
One key statistic: Osaka compiled seven break points in the first set but failed to convert a single one. She was 0 for 4 on break chances when Siniakova served out that set, then never managed to earn one in the second.
Clay has never been Osaka's best surface. Her power game is served better by the speed of hard courts, in particular. That's why she still has not made it to the round of 16 at the French Open.
WATCH | Djokovic dusts aside qualifier in 3rd round:
The first tennis player from Japan to be ranked No. 1 thought she was better suited to contend this time and spoke about eyeing a third consecutive Grand Slam title.
After going just 9-11 on clay over her career until this season, she was 9-1 in 2019 until Saturday's setback.
The loss ends Osaka's run of 16 straight wins in Grand Slam tournaments, which included titles at the U.S. Open and Australian Open.
Halep, Djokovic move on
Osaka's exit, a day after No. 2 Karolina Pliskova lost, leaves defending champion Simona Halep, at No. 3, as the highest-seeded woman remaining. Halep needed only 55 minutes to get to the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 27 Lesia Tsurenko.
Keys, a semifinalist in Paris a year ago, advanced by beating qualifier Anna Blinkova 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4.
In men's action, No. 1 Novak Djokovic stretched his Slam winning streak to 24 matches as he seeks his fourth title in a row, eliminating 147th-ranked qualifier Salvatore Caruso of Italy 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.
Also advancing were No. 5 Alexander Zverev, No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 9 Fabio Fognini and No. 24 Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 champion and 2017 runner-up at Roland Garros.
Tsitsipas vs. Wawrinka, and Zverev vs. Fognini will be fourth-round matchups.