Serena Williams’s quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title was put on hold on Saturday after the former world number one was knocked out of the French Open in the third round following a 6-2 7-5 defeat by fellow American Sofia Kenin.
Chasing Margaret Smith Court’s all-time record, which was built over the amateur and professional eras, Williams failed to recover from a woeful opening set on Court Philippe Chatrier.
In the players’ first meeting, world number 35 Kenin pulled Williams around the court and made the most of her opponent’s unforced errors to set up a last-16 encounter with Australian eighth seed Ashleigh Barty.
Kenin made the most of Williams’s shaky start, breaking for 3-2 as the 10th seed sprayed the court with unforced errors.
Williams’s forehand was woeful and her opponent piled on the pressure to move 5-2 up with another break.
Williams was broken to love in the first game of the second set and looked nothing close to finding a solution against Kenin’s pace.
`Williams was hitting short, however, allowing Kenin to step into the court and dictate play. But in the sixth game, Williams finally broke to level for 3-3 as Kenin showed more signs of nerves, disputing several calls from the umpire or the linesmen.
It was her way to stay in the game, however, and she claimed the decisive break for 6-5 with a lighting-quick service return that left Williams stranded.
Kenin missed a forehand on her first match point, and it was Williams who handed her the win when she sent a backhand long, filling the youngster’s eyes with tears.