Williams -- the 2000
Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion -- was humbled 6-4 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen
by Austrian powerhouse Barbara Schett, rendering her dream of grabbing the No1
ranking from Martina Hingis in the near future mute.
"I just had a very, very rough day," said Williams. I wasn't playing
A confused Williams appeared to have her thoughts elsewhere, as the muscular
Schett ate up her weak second serves and exploited her shaky forehand with
blowtorch returns and a wicked forehand. Considered by many to be the tour's
hardest hitter, Williams frequently found herself on the defensive, unable to
control the center of the court nor read where Schett was going with her shots.
The Austrian also served effectively, stretching Williams out with a biting
slice serve and occasionally running flat serves
down the middle that left Williams flat footed.
"It was her," Williams said. "She was able to step up. But I also
hit quite a few short balls. Naturally when you hit some short balls, you have
to expect to run."
Sprint she did, side to side, to and fro, but Williams could never gain control
of her normally consistent baseline blasts.
"It was my groundstrokes," said Williams, who committed 43 unforced
"I couldn't keep a ball in. I was making quite a few errors for no apparent
Williams did manage to fight off three match points in the contest's final game,
unlike numerous times in the past, Schett didn't seize up and Williams couldn't
pull herself through. Williams has played sparingly this year, but did win the
Ericsson Open and devastated the field in Hamburg on clay. The 20-year-old
believes she has been playing enough.
"I never dreamed it would turn out like this," Williams said.
"Normally I turn it around but today it wasn't there."
For Schett, it was a landmark victory. The No25-ranked Austrian is a super-fit,
classic stroker who was ranked No7 in '99, but has always fallen apart at the
Slams. The 25-year-old came into the match with a 0-4 record against Williams
and hadn't been playing particularly well in clay court warm-up events, but somehow found an
extra gear on Monday.
"I knew I had a chance to beat Venus because our last matches were
close," Schett said. "I just said, 'I'm going to walk out there and be
loose, try to enjoy my time on the court and be aggressive. I knew deep inside I
would be able to beat her. She didn't play her best, but who cares?"