Serena Williams’ French Open ended in tears and acrimony today after the world number one and top seed crashed out at the semi-final stage following a 6-2 4-6 7-5 defeat to Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne.
The match, though, will be remembered more for the reaction of the Roland Garros crowd which was merciless in its hostility towards the American.
Williams was booed every time she questioned a call, even though more often than not she was proved correct, while in the latter stages of the match, as it built towards a thrilling third-set climax, every first serve she missed was afforded loud cheers.
And the defending champion, who also had a 33-match grand slam unbeaten record ended, admitted afterwards she was hurt by her reception.
“It was a very, very tough public out there, very tough but that is the story of my life,” she said at the post-match press conference before bursting into tears.
“I have always had to fight hard in my life and it is another battle I am going to have to win.
“I always try to please the crowd with my game. It’s hard to fight against the whole crowd and it was not nice to hear the people applaud my mistakes.”
Williams was quick to distance herself from suggestions the crowd’s animosity was linked to the recent political stand-off between France and America.
“The fact that I am American has nothing to do with their behaviour, I don’t think,” she said.
“I have a lot of fans in France.”
But she conceded the crowd had affected her game.
“Maybe I let the public get into my bubble today. On the other hand Justine played extremely well, she deserved to win,” she added.
“But that is the way it is, sometimes it is the underdog who wins. Next time I will have to be stronger.”