at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Paris – The crowd were ranged against her, her least favourite umpire was surveying her from her lofty position atop her chair and she was going out to the host nation's heroine.
When you're in a hole on the clay at Roland Garros, stop digging because it's all relative.
That's what Serena Williams told herself after Tuesday's shock opening round loss to Virginie Razzano.
The thrilling 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 loss might have been the worst Grand Slam defeat of her career for a fifth seeded multiple Grand Slam champion beaten by a woman ranked a modest 111 in the world.
But Serena insisted she had to take it all on the chin after going out at the first time of asking for the first time ever in 47 major appearances.
“I tried, I kept going for my shots. It's disappointing but it's life. I always think things can be worse” insisted Serena.
She added that she was aware of the emotional significancance of the win on home terrain for Razzano, who lost her 32-year-old fiance to a brain tumour last year less than a week before the tournament started.
“I know of her story – she obviously is dealing with it really well,” said the 30-year-old American.
She said she could try to empathise as she herself missed the event last year owing to life-threatening blood clots in her lungs.
“We all have stories. I mean, I almost died,” she reminisced before returning to dissect her match collapse after leading 5/1 in the second set tiebreak.
She then came back from 0-5 to 3-5 in the decider and saved seven match points in the following game only to hit long at the last.
Prior to the final set the 13-time Grand Slam winner had appeared to be in tears sat in her courtside chair.
Part of the frustration might have been the subconscious knowledge that sat above her was umpire Eva Asderaki, with whom she had angrily clashed during last year's US Open final defeat against Australian Samantha Stosur.
Asderaki in fact came down hard on both players on several occasions and handed Serena a break point in the final game in punishing Razzano for hindrance for a third time for letting out a loud yelp.
Even so, Serena knew she was in the stuff of nightmares with Asderaki looking on from her perch.
“Well, you know, she's not a favourite amongst the tour,” said Serena mischievously.
“Was she the one that did my US Open last match last year? I just really had a flashback there,” she said to laughter from the assembled media in allusion to an outburst which earned her a fine.
Going back to her own showing she indicated she knew at heart she had received her just desserts after letting the match slip.
“I just felt like I couldn't get a ball in play – how can you hit late on a claycourt?
“I have to put it in perspective. My Roland Garros so happens to be over,” concluded Serena, adding she was fit and would now simply have to learn from her experience. – Sapa-AFP