Tennis: World No. 1 Williams left red-faced by shock loss to Romanian Halep

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.

"On this particular day, she played big first serves, big second serves, she was hitting winners - usually that's not her game, in particular.

"But you got to step up to the plate. She did and I didn't."

NO EXCUSES

A left knee injury suffered in China earlier this month had cast doubt over Williams' participation in the week-long Finals and, while she admitted she was not at peak condition, she refused to offer any excuses.

Indeed, she even vowed to come back stronger and prove a point against Halep.

When asked if she was physically fine, Williams said: "Oh, God, no.

"I'm definitely not 100 per cent okay. I'm just here playing, but I'm nowhere near 100 per cent.

"But that has nothing to do with today's match. Simona played very well, and she's played the best match of her career.

"I'm looking forward to our next meeting because she's made me want to go home and work hard and particularly train for her."

Williams will play Eugenie Bouchard today and the Canadian sweetheart - who lost 1-6, 3-6 to Ivanovic yesterday - can surely expect a backlash from the world No. 1.

msazali@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 23, 2014.
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