Tennis·FRENCH OPEN

Serena Williams suffers earliest major exit in 5 years

Serena Williams has been handed her earliest loss at a major in five years. The 23-time Grand Slam champion was beaten 6-2, 7-5 in the third round at Roland Garros by 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin.

Top-ranked Osaka also upset; former champs Halep, Djokovic advance

Serena Williams reacts during her third-round loss to fellow American Sofia Kenin at the French Open on Saturday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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:

Serena Williams falls to Sofia Kenin 6-2, 7-5, suffers earliest major exit in 5 years. 0:37

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:

Novak Djokovic stretches his grand slam winning streak to 24 matches with straight sets victory over Salvatore Caruso. 0:52

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.

Japan's Naomi Osaka looks skyward after missing a point and dropping the first set during her third-round loss to Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic at the French Open on Saturday. (Michel Euler/The Associated Press)

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:

World No. 1 Naomi Osaka was swept out of the French Open 6-4, 6-2 at the hands of the Czech Republic's Katerina Siniakova on Saturday. 0:37

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.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.