Fifth seed Serena Williams hailed an “unbelievable” performance from Katarina Srebotnik after crashing out of the French Open at the third-round stage today.
The American, who won the title here in 2002, made error after error as she fell 6-4 6-4 to the 27th seed on Suzanne Lenglen court.
But Srebotnik, from Slovenia, produced one of the best displays of her career, clinching victory on her third match point when Williams sent yet another forehand wide.
Williams, 26, said: “She was getting balls back and making shots she has never made before, otherwise she probably would be in the top two.
“I knew it was going to be a difficult match but she just played unbelievable.
“I missed a lot of easy shots that could have turned the match around and I wasn’t able to capitalise.”
It is Williams’ earliest exit from Roland Garros since 1999, when she also lost in the third round, and she is the highest seed to leave the women’s draw.
She added: “Overall, I didn’t play well in this tournament. I didn’t think I played well in the first or second round.”
Srebotnik, who will meet Emilie Loit or Patty Schnyder in the fourth round, took the first set at the fourth time of asking.
She then took advantage of Williams’ mistake-riddled display in the second set, and picked up the all-important break in the ninth game to go 5-4 up.
The 27-year-old squandered two match points but jumped in delight when a stretching Williams yanked her faltering forehand wide on the third.
Elsewhere, second seed Ana Ivanovic defeated Caroline Wozniacki in a second successive grand-slam event to progress through to the fourth round.
The Serbian was pushed all the way by the promising 17-year-old from Denmark in a pulsating first set but eventually eased to a 6-4 6-1 win on Philippe Chatrier court.
Ivanovic, a winner against Wozniacki in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, will next play Petra Cetkovska, who beat fellow Czech Iveta Benesova 6-3 6-3 on Court Two.
Leading 4-3 in the first set, Ivanovic saved five break points but double-faulted on her sixth as Wozniacki pegged her back.
The teenager, at that time, was making few errors and her precise shots to both wings were forcing the Serb to scuttle around at the back of the court.
But she wasted the hard work of that game by losing her next serve to 15 to go 5-4 behind, before Ivanovic took the opener on her first set point.
That seemed to demoralise the Dane, who could not keep pace in the second set.
The other early winner today was 25th seed Nadia Petrova, who beat fellow Russian Alisa Kleybanova in straight sets in her delayed second-round match.