At first, Williams was pissed off when she was called up for taking too long between points. She later threw down her racquet after letting the second set slip away. In the end, she finished quite obediently in a 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-1 overturned against Maria Sakkari.
It was Williams’ fifth game since resuming professional tennis amid the coronavirus pandemic after a hiatus of almost six months – and all five have made three sets. She is 3-2 in that stretch.
The result against No.13 seeded Sakkari was hardly promising for Williams as the US Open start next week’s approach.
“It’s hard to play the way I played and stay positive. And playing nine hours a week is too much. I don’t usually play like that, ”Williams said. “I literally should have won this. meet. There was no excuse. It was difficult, but I had so many chances to win. I have to figure out that one – how to start winning those games again. ”
The Western and Southern Open is typically held in Ohio, but has been moved to the US Open venue in Flushing Meadows this year to create a two-event, no-spectator “bubble” during the pandemic .
Williams was apparently in control early on, serving for the opening set at 5-3, 30-0, when things started to turn sour. She missed two backhands in a row, then put a forehand into the net to set up a breaking point and walked up to the stand holding her towel at the back of the court. (Ball players normally handle player towels, but not during the pandemic.)
It was then that chair umpire Aurelie Tourte called for a time violation. On the next point, Williams took a long forehand to break.
In the ensuing change, the 23-time Grand Slam champion argued with Tourte, saying, “I mean, I get my own towels. It is not fair. You should tell me on the sidelines next time if I have to play faster. Believe me, I will … You didn’t even give me a warning. ”
Although Williams eventually grabbed that set, she again lost a 5-3 lead in the second, plus a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker. As she sat down after the second set, the 38-year-old American threw her racquet over her shoulder like an office worker might flip a crumpled piece of paper into a trash can.
Williams came out flat in the third set, as if she’d rather be somewhere else. She double faulted four times in Game 2, including on Sakkari’s eighth chance for a break, to make it 2-0, and that was about it.
The women’s quarter-finals established earlier today were two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka against Anett Kontaveit, former No.1 Victoria Azarenka against Ons Jabeur and US qualifier Jessica Pegula, ranked 83rd, against 14th Elise Mertens. .
The Associated Press contributed to this report.