Serena Williams noticed the 1,000th match of her illustrious profession finish in a straight-set defeat by Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska on the Italian Open.
The 39-year-old American, enjoying her first aggressive match since mid-February, was overwhelmed 7-6 (8-6) 7-5.
Podoroska regarded assured in her first assembly with the 23-time Grand Slam champion as she reached the final 16.
Naomi Osaka suffered a second straight defeat on clay, whereas Simona Halep’s title defence was ended by damage.
Japanese world quantity two Osaka misplaced 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 to American Jessica Pegula in a blow to her preparations for the French Open, which begins on 30 Might.
In the meantime, Halep’s participation within the clay-court Grand Slam – which she gained in 2018 – is within the steadiness after a scan confirmed she has a tear in her left calf.
The Romanian world quantity three needed to be helped off courtroom due to the damage that pressured her to retire towards Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
Halep, main 6-1 3-3 when she needed to cease, was wincing in ache and regarded near tears as she hobbled again to her chair.
“I’ll get an MRI tomorrow to know the damage in additional element, however for the time being we’re uncertain of restoration time,” the two-time Grand Slam champion tweeted on Wednesday night.
It was, nonetheless, a extra simple day for Australian world primary Ashleigh Barty, who reached the third spherical by beating Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4 6-1.
Williams has work to do earlier than Roland Garros
On a day the place 9 of the ladies’s prime 10 have been enjoying in Rome, a lot of the consideration was targeted on the return of Williams to match motion.
The American’s final look got here within the Australian Open semi-final defeat by Osaka on 18 February.
Being pitted towards Forty fourth-ranked Podoroska, who surprisingly reached the Roland Garros semi-finals final yr, seemed to be removed from perfect in her bid to spend time on courtroom within the Italian capital this week.
Eighth seed Williams lacked depth and struggled on first serve all through the match, touchdown simply 48% of them, and was unable to take any of the three break alternatives which got here her approach.
Podoroska initially struggled to shut out the match as Williams worn out the Argentine’s 5-2 lead for 5-5 within the second set, earlier than Podoroska regained her composure to beat a top-10 opponent for the third time in her profession.
Williams will not be scheduled to play once more earlier than the French Open begins however she hinted after this defeat that she might now look so as to add a match to her schedule.
“It was positively sort of good to go the gap and to attempt to be on the market, however clearly I can do legions higher,” she instructed a information convention.
“Possibly I do want just a few extra matches, so I will attempt to determine that out with my coach and my group and see what we want to do.
“I’ve been coaching for months, nevertheless it feels positively completely different on clay to make that final adjustment.”
Osaka’s physique language illustrates clay considerations
Osaka, who acquired a first-round bye, has typically struggled on clay and destructive physique language – together with when she smashed a racquet – confirmed her discomfort towards a assured Pegula.
After a decent opener the place she missed three set factors, Osaka’s degree dropped within the second and world quantity 31 Pegula took management.
Pegula, 27, saved her focus and self-discipline to reap the benefits of Osaka’s more and more wayward hitting, breaking for 4-2 when the four-time Grand Slam champion walloped a wild volley vast and happening to seal the most important win of her profession.
For 23-year-old Osaka, this defeat adopted a second-round loss on the Madrid Open earlier this month.