The last time Serena Williams left the French Open after an early loss, in 2012, she went on to win the next two Grand Slam tournaments – and four of the next six.
So what might the tennis world see from Williams now that she was beaten in the second round at Roland Garros?
“I’m going to go home and work five times as hard,” she said, ”to make sure I never lose again.”
Well, that last part might be far-fetched, but the point was pretty clear nonetheless: Watch out when play starts at Wimbledon next month.
Williams, seeded No. 1 in Paris and the defending champion, endured the most lopsided loss of her 288-match Grand Slam career Wednesday, beaten 6-2, 6-2 by 35th-ranked Garbine Muguruza, a 20-year-old from Spain.
It’s only the third time the 32-year-old Williams has exited a major tournament before the third round. She lost to her older sister Venus in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open, and lost to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open two years ago. Right after that setback, Williams began working with French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, a relationship that immediately paid dividends.
Over the rest of that season, she won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and two gold medals at the London Olympics. Then, in 2013, Williams went 78-4 with 11 titles, including at the French Open and U.S. Open.
“She’s definitely the kind of person that, when something bad happens to her, is always able to react. It’s really something that she has in herself,” Mouratoglou said. “When she has a bad loss or she’s really down … it’s also a source of motivation for her to come back even stronger. So I have no doubt that she will tell me very soon that she wants to get ready to go back to work and win again.”
Mouratoglou doesn’t think Williams will enter a grass-court tournament to prepare for Wimbledon – she almost never does – but he’s already got a list of things to focus on that he wrote down during the loss to Muguruza.
There were plenty of areas in which Williams was far from her best in the 64-minute match.
Her serving was only OK; she lost all five points she played at the net; she sprayed 29 unforced errors and, of more concern, only produced eight winners.
“Obviously, I’m super-disappointed and it’s hard. I worked really hard. But, hey, maybe I can do better,” said Williams, whose match was starting on Court Suzanne Lenglen right around the time her sister’s 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19-year-old Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia was ending in the main stadium.
“I know for a fact I can work harder,” Williams continued. “I know for a fact I can play so much better than what I did today.”
The pair of losses by the siblings prevented them from playing each other in the third round at the French Open, which would have been their 25th meeting on tour – but first at a major tournament since the 2009 Wimbledon final.
Now as play continues at Roland Garros, Williams’ thoughts will turn to the All England Club.
“It’s great sometimes … to get knocked down, because you have to get back up,” she said. “I love getting back up. I love the challenge.”