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Blonde bomber Schett blows up favourite

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 normal."

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 errors.

"I couldn't keep a ball in. I was making quite a few errors for no apparent reason."

Williams did manage to fight off three match points in the contest's final game, but
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?"