World No 1 Serena Williams suffered one of the heaviest defeats of her long and illustrious career as she was humbled 6-0, 6-2 by Romanian Simona Halep at the WTA Finals on Wednesday.
The 18-times grand slam winner won only nine points in the opening set as her game deserted her in alarming fashion. The American’s two games won equalled her career worst.
The last time Williams managed to win just two games in a WTA Tour or grand slam match was in 1998 when she was just 16, a 6-1, 6-1 loss to Joannette Kruger in Oklahoma City..
The double defending champion, who was on a 16-match winning streak in the event, served seven double faults and struggled for any rhythm with her groundstrokes as the world No 4 claimed a famous first win over the 33-year-old American.
The most formidable serve in women’s tennis deserted Williams, who was broken five times.
“My serve was at best in the 10 and under division in juniors,” Williams quipped after the match.
“Yeah, it was actually embarrassing,” she added. “Yeah, very embarrassing.”
Halep had never before beaten a top-three ranked opponent and in her previous two matches against Williams, both last year, she had won an aggregate of just seven games.
The 23-year-old was the aggressor all the way, moving Williams, 10 years her senior and the oldest competitor in Singapore, from corner to corner with pinpoint ground strokes.
The Romanian, who also won convincingly against Eugenie Bouchard in her opening round-robin match, moves to a 2-0 record in the Red Group while Williams slips to 1-1.
Williams can still make it through to the semi-finals of the season ending event but she will need to beat Bouchard on Thursday.
Halep will finish her group play against Ana Ivanovic, who lost her first match to Williams. Bouchard and Ivanovic face off later Wednesday.
Williams, who withdrew from this month’s China Open with a left knee problem, said fitness had nothing to do with her loss.
“I think Simona played really well and (won) the best match of her career,” she said.
The 6-0 first set was the first time since the 2008 championships that Williams had lost a set by that score, against sister Venus.
“My forehand was off today,” Williams said. “It’s obviously gone on an early vacation.”
For Halep, who was ranked No 47 two years ago, Wednesday’s win over No 1 Williams represented a new career high.
“It was my best match of my life,” Halep said. “I played unbelievable shots. It means a lot this match. At an important time I played really well, and after today my confidence will be more high.”
Halep, runner-up at this year’s French Open, has been careful not to raise her sights too high at this tournament. She remained cautious even after two dominant victories.
“I have confidence I can get to the semi-finals,” Halep said. “First I have to forget this day, but it will be hard to forget. I am so happy.”
Williams was surprised by Halep’s performance, saying “she has never played like this before”.
“To be frankly honest, I am looking forward to our next meeting because she is going to make me go home, train hard and particularly train for her,” Williams said.
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