Serena Williams loses milestone match in Rome

Sep 28, 2020; Paris, France; Serena Williams (USA) during her match against Kristie Ahn (USA) on day two of the 2020 French Open at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska shocked No. 8 seed Serena Williams 7-6 (6), 7-5 in the second round Wednesday at the Italian Open in Rome, spoiling the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s 1,000th career match.

The one-hour, 58-minute match was Williams’ first since the Australian Open.

“It’s tough to have a first match on clay,” said Williams, who twice came back from a break down in the opening set and fought off three set points in the tiebreaker. “It was definitely kind of good to go the distance and try to be out there, but clearly I can do legions better.”

The victory over the four-time Italian Open champion was Podoroska’s third career win against a Top 10 opponent.

“It’s special win,” said Podoroska, 24. “To play against her, it’s an honor for me. I saw her playing when I grew up, so it was a special match for me. But most of all, I’m happy with the way I played.”

Williams, 39, was hardly the day’s only upset victim.

No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan also fell in straight sets to American Jessica Pegula, 7-6 (2), 6-2, while Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic sent No. 4 Sofia Kenin packing with a 6-1, 6-4 win.

“I knew I was right there,” Pegula said after her 87-minute victory over the World No. 2 and four-time Grand Slam winner. “I knew if I could just hang in there and play my service games smart, I could get opportunities on her serve. … I thought I toughed out the first set mentally, and then the second set I started to play better.”

Russia’s Vera Zvonareva outlasted No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. American Coco Gauff eliminated 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 1-6, 6-1.

No. 3 seed Simona Halep of Romania was leading 6-1, 3-3 when she was forced to retire with a calf injury against Germany’s Angelique Kerber.

Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty of Australia took care of business with a 6-4, 6-1 win against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.

Other seeded players advancing safely to the third round included No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 9 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, No. 12 Garbine Muguruza of Spain and No. 15 Iga Swiatek of Poland.

Wednesday’s other winners on the clay courts included Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, Croatia’s Petra Martic and Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.

–Field Level Media