It's not often that the word "embarrassing" can be used on Serena Williams.
That was exactly how the world's top-ranked player described herself after her shock 0-6, 2-6 defeat by Romanian world No. 4 Simona Halep in their Red Group match yesterday at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
After a convincing opening win over Serbia's Ana Ivanovic on Monday, Williams was widely expected to steamroll past Halep.
But the 33-year-old American looked strangely out of sorts at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, making 36 unforced errors and seven double-faults during the 1hr 5min match.
It was her heaviest loss in 16 years and ended a run of 16 straight victories at the year-ending tournament for the 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013 champion, whose bid for a title hat-trick is now hanging in the balance.
After the match, Williams admitted that she made a "slow start", and was critical of her game.
"My forehand was off today, again... I guess it went on an early vacation," said the 18-time Grand Slam winner with a wry smile.
"Lord knows my serve was as well. My serve was, I don't even know, at best, (an Under-10) division in juniors, so, yeah, it was actually embarrassing.
"That kind of describes the way I played. Very embarrassing."
She added that she was at a loss to explain her performance, and insisted she had not played "nearly as well" as she had in practice.
Indeed, her trademark booming serves were nowhere to be seen, as she notched just two aces in the entire match - the same as Halep.
Just two days earlier, Williams had hit 12 against Ivanovic.
Despite the thrashing she received, the two-time reigning WTA Finals champion was gracious in defeat, praising the 23-year-old Halep, whom she had beaten in all their three previous meetings.
"She's served a lot better today," said Williams, when asked what the difference in Halep's game was since their last meeting in the Cincinatti Masters 14 months ago.
"I've seen her play a lot, she's never played like this before.