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PARIS (AP) — For more than a decade, whatever the state of her health or her game, no matter the opponent or arena, Serena Williams always won first-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments.
Until Tuesday at the French Open. Until Williams came within two points of victory nine times, yet remarkably failed to close the deal against unheralded and 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France.
Until a theatrical, 23-minute final game filled with 30 points, more than enough for an entire set, featuring ebbs and flows, high-pressure shotmaking and nerves — and even thunderous protests from the crowd when the chair umpire docked Razzano a point. That look-away-and-you-miss-something game included five wasted break points for Williams, and seven match points that she saved, until Razzano finally converted her eighth, 3 hours and 3 minutes after they began playing.
All told, until Tuesday, Williams was 46 for 46 in openers at tennis’ top venues, and those encounters tended to be routine and drama-free, befitting a woman so good that the goal — and 13 times, the end result — was a major championship.
Not this time. Now Williams’ first-round Grand Slam record is 46-1 after as stunning a denouement as could be in a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 loss to Razzano on the red clay at Roland Garros.
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