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Venus and Serena Williams united in despair as they exit French Open

By Eleanor Crooks

Serena Williams' demise turned the ripples into shockwaves at a French Open full of surprises as Maria Sharapova assumed the mantle of title favourite.

The tournament had previously lost Australian Open champions Stan Wawrinka and Li Na but Williams' 6-2 6-2 defeat by Spain's Garbine Muguruza was on another level.

The world number one went into the tournament as a huge favourite to retain the title she won for the second time 12 months ago.

But, within an hour of her sister Venus losing to Anna Schmiedlova, Serena trudged off the court a beaten woman. The pair had been expected to meet in the third round.

The result was surprising enough but the manner of it added to the shock. The 32-year-old had never previously won fewer than five games in any grand slam match.

Meanwhile, coupled with Li's loss to Kristina Mladenovic on Tuesday, it is the first time in the Open era that the top two seeds in the women's tournament have lost before the third round at any grand slam.

Williams, who made 29 unforced errors and hit only eight winners, said: "I don't think anything worked for me today.

"It was one of those days. You can't be on every day, and I hate to be off during a grand slam. It happens. It's not the end of the world.

"I think she played really well and she played really smart. It's great because I'm going to go home and work five times as hard to make sure I never lose again."

As poor as Serena was, the match was just as much about the performance of 20-year-old Muguruza..

The world number 35 struck the ball with great power and precision and was nerveless serving out the biggest victory of her life.

The pair exchanged words at the net, with Muguruza explaining: "She said that if I continue playing like this, I can win the tournament. I said, 'I will try, I will try'."

Venus performed much better against another young gun and raced through the first set but Schmiedlova showed impressive composure to turn the match around and win 2-6 6-3 6-4 to reach the third round at a grand slam for the first time.

Had Venus and Serena played each other, it would have been their earliest ever meeting in a knockout tournament.

Venus said: "I felt like this was a match that I was most likely going to win. I don't know how Serena felt, but I'm sure she feels like that every time she goes on the court. So I think our expectation was to play in the next round."

While it was a miserable day for the Williams family, another American was making her first mark on grand slam tennis.

Eighteen-year-old wild card Taylor Townsend showed what a talent she is by upsetting 20th seed Alize Cornet 6-4 4-6 6-4.

In her first grand slam tournament, it was not surprising that Townsend wobbled, but she put behind her the blow of losing 4-1 and 5-1 leads in the last two sets to clinch victory.

Townsend had not even been aware Serena had lost, the shock evident as she said: "I thought she won. I saw 2 and 2. I was like, 'Oh, that was fast'.

"I'm just happy that I was able to pull it out. The fact I followed Federer just freaked me out last night.

"As a professional athlete and a young athlete, these are the times that I have been wishing would come, and I'm just really happy I took advantage."

Sharapova did not enjoy herself much in damp and gloomy conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier but recovered from 4-2 down in the opening set to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova 7-5 6-2.

She had been due to play Serena in the quarter-finals, and said: "I think you always have to follow your path and always concentrate on your work and who's ahead of you.

"Obviously when you go on court you're aware of a lot of the upsets, not just in the women but in the men, as well. So it's great to get a win in that type of atmosphere."

Belfast Telegraph

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