Serena Williams served 13 aces, hit 55 winners and had a match point against Samantha Stosur in a French Open women's quarterfinal match Wednesday.
Top-seeded Williams, owner of 12 major titles including the 2010 Australian Open, seemed poised to move to the semifinals at Roland Garros when she lined up and smacked a forehand in the third set, a shot that could have won her the match.
It is those moments Williams usually owns, after she has steadied herself from a slow start and begun applying relentless pressure. And when she cracked a noisy, aggressive shot meant for winning and not safety, it seemed that she was on her way to the semifinals.
But that forehand was an inch long, and in the end seventh-seeded Stosur took off her sunglasses and let the crowd at Roland Garros see the sparkle in her eyes. Stosur upset Williams 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6 and earned a spot against fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic in Thursday's semifinals.
After the 2-hour, 24-minute match, Williams gave what is her stock answer after a loss. "Well," she said, "she's a good player. I made so many errors, and I definitely was nowhere near my best today. But she played really well."
In fact Stosur, a big-serving Australian, has had the best clay court season among the top players. She brought a 19-2 record on clay into the tournament, and now she has taken out not only the No. 1-ranked player but also pre-tournament favorite Justine Henin.
U.S. Federation Cup coach and ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez said on a phone call from Paris that Stosur beat Williams in part because of better serving, something that doesn't often happen to the world's top player.
"Stosur played beautifully," Fernandez said. "She matched Serena with her first serve and actually Stosur had a much more effective second serve. Serena never seemed to move up to it, and that gave control to Stosur on a lot of points."
Fernandez calls the women's semifinals "wide open." In the other semifinal, 17th-seeded Francesa Schiavone of Italy will go up against fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia.
Despite being asked frequently during her French Open stand about the chance to win all four majors this year (she won the Australian), Williams said it wasn't on her mind.
"It's not like I've had so many chances to do it," she said. "This was kind of weird. I didn't play for 12 weeks [before Paris], so it was just kind of like, 'OK, let's go in here, no real pressure, and just do the best I could do.' Just looking at the big picture, I think I did OK considering where I've come from."
Of some consolation to Serena was that she and sister Venus advanced to the women's doubles finals with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over third-seeded Liezel Huber and Anabel Medina Garrigues. The top-seeded Williams sisters will play 12th-seeded Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik in the finals.
There was also a major upset on the men's side. Third-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who will be playing in the Farmers Classic this summer in Los Angeles, was eliminated by 22nd-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria, 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Less severely tested was second-seeded Rafael Nadal, who beat Spanish countryman Nicolas Almagro, 7-6, (2), 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Djokovic had a key call go against him in the last game of the match. He hit a passing shot that seemed to graze the line but was called out. Although television replays used the HawkEye electronic line-calling system to show Djokovic's shot as good, the French Open only employs human officials and doesn't rely on electronic help.
"From my side and from my perspective, my shot was looking good," Djokovic said. "There was no space between the line and the mark and that means the ball is good. But, you know, this is all part of the sport. What can you do? Sometimes you have to be lucky as well with the calls."
Djokovic said he had no problem with the French Open not using electronic line-calling.
"I don't think there is any sense on getting HawkEye on clay courts," he said. "You can see the mark. I mean, for somebody that is a chair umpire, so many years of experience, and to make such a mistake at that point is unbelievable, you know?"
Pucin reported from Los Angeles.