BEVERLY HILLS, June 06, (THEWILL) – On a day when 39-year-old Roger Federer exited the French Open due to the toll his third-round match had on his recovering body, another 39-year-old veteran, on the female side, Serena Williams suffered a fourth-round 6-3 7-5 defeat to also bow out of Paris.
Williams’ fourth round opponent, Elena Rybakina, upped every facet of her game to overcome the American veteran. It was the 21-year-old’s day and she made sure to deliver the performance of a lifetime. She showed the fans cheering on Court Philippe Chatrier that she had what it took to see it through especially in the tense end of the second set.
Indications that it was going to be an incredibly tough game for Williams were evident when Rybakina stamped her authority on the contest in commanding fashion by taking the opening set 6-3. The glimpses of the firebrand, younger Williams, which came across in the first three rounds were not enough.
Rybakina simply did not afford the veteran the grace to get back into the match effectively enough, ensuring Williams will continue to wait for what is becoming an elusive record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title. This is not too different from Federer’s continued but difficult pursuit of a 21st title, in a field of younger, vibrant and hungrier tennis stars.
As gracious as Williams was in accepting the loss, it will sting the 39-year-old, no less because of how favourably the draw had opened up for her to succeed in the clay of 2021 Roland Garros. Unlike Federer who had tough opponents like Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic ahead of his progress, she was expected to contend for the title after Aryna Sabalenka was defeated on Friday.
With world numbers one and two, Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka, having withdrawn, the path appeared as clear as it ever could be for Williams.
But Rybakina had her own ambitions and can now capitalise after she clinched her place in the last eight in the Open and sent Williams home.
The veterans did not win but they demonstrated enough guts to challenge in the matches they played. Federer showed the steely character that made him an icon of the game and Williams had times when she was simply inimitable. It means they will still give their pursuits another shot and on their more adaptable surface, the grass court, when Wimbledon begins.