Did we just witness the most dramatic single game in the history of tennis? Just try fitting the ninth and final game of the third set, which lasted 24 minutes, into a short highlights reel. Or even a short lowlights reel. A game can be over in four points and less than a minute: this one filled almost half an hour with great winners; some horrific tennis; the controversy with the unfortunate intervention by the umpire to call Virginie Razzano for a noise hindrance; the crowd banging their seats; the Frenchwoman cramping; quite possibly the worst second serve ever struck (or plopped) on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Serena was slashing at the ball. Seven match points came and went. Serena had breakpoints, but could not convert them – on one, Razzano hit an ace. But the world No 111 took the eighth match point. “That was the most incredible game, so many ups and downs, so many great shots, and so many horrible shots,” said the watching Jim Courier. “The crowd got involved, the umpire got involved. There was a whole match in that one game.”
To think that Serena had led by a set and 5-1 in the second-set tiebreak.
What does this mean for Williams at Wimbledon and the Olympics? Yes, this wasn’t quite how Serena’s trip to Paris had been planned out – she arrived asking to be called ‘Chantel’ as it sounds “so French”, and ended up losing in the opening round of a slam for the first time. But, in truth, this probably won’t have much impact on the double-header on the other side of the Channel. Serena can still win two titles at the All England Club this summer. As for Paris, this result should make life a whole lot easier for Maria Sharapova, who had been projected to play Serena in the quarter-finals. Has Razzano just enabled Sharapova to complete her career grand slam?
Serena Williams once called the umpire “ugly inside”, “a hater”, and “a nobody” – the crowds at Roland Garros would have called the official far worse if Razzano had lost this because of a contentious decision. As Eva Asderaki walked off court, the boos were so loud that you couldn’t make out what Razzano was hearing during her post-match interview. Never mind what Razzano had to say. The crowd were not going to allow Asderaki to depart without showing their disapproval for what happened at 30-all in the last game of the match.
When Razzano called out during the rally, the official gave the point to Williams. It was the second time that Asderaki had called Razzano for hindrance, but the timing was extraordinary. This was the same official who was in the chair during last year’s US Open final, when she called the American for a noise hindrance for crying out “C’mon” mid-rally against Sam Stosur. Asderaki isn’t a hater or a nobody, but in Paris she was in the wrong. The crowd booed, they banged their seats. But imagine what would have happened if Williams had survived this.
How about some consistency with the hindrance rule? As Howard Bryant of ESPN suggested on Twitter: “All I can say is that if hindrance is actually going to be called that tightly, Sharapova and Azarenka can go home now.”
Great to see Razzano smiling again. When Razzano played at Roland Garros last year, it was in honour of her fiance Stephane, who had died from a brain tumour just days before the start of the championships.