WIMBLEDON – How many angst-filled, stunningly premature losses does Serena Williams suffer before it becomes not a shocker, but a trend?
Because with her 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat at the hands of No. 25 seed Alizé Cornet of France in the third round at Wimbledon Saturday, that makes her three-for-three in Grand Slams – this season.
A fourth-round loss to Ana Ivanovic in Australia, a second-round shocker against Garbiñe Muguruza in Paris, and now a third-round loss to Cornet after a long day of waiting out the rain at Wimbledon.
When she first came into the interview room, it appeared old Serena might show up – downcast eyes, halfhearted shrugs, non-answers and three-word sentences.
Her first answer: "I don’t know. I tried and it just didn’t work out." Shrug. Awkward silence.
But as it went along, it was clear Williams did want to hash it out a little, because she was truly at a loss to explain the loss.
"In Australia, I just couldn’t play. In Paris, I played really bad. Here, I thought I played better. I came into the tournament in better form. I thought I was doing pretty decent," she said. "I think I’m going to have to watch this film to see what I can do better, and see what went wrong."
Several times during the press conference Williams brought up the notion that every one of her opponents completely plays above her level, plays the match of their life against her.
Against her. Not against anyone else. Just against her.
"The changes I need to make are mostly within, just try to see why I’m making some errors. But it’s difficult; if I’m not playing a great, great match these girls play me as though they’re on the ATP Tour, and they play other girls completely different," she said. "It’s not easy to be in my shoes, but you’ve got to be ready."
Williams said it's always been that way, in her opinion. But for whatever reason, it seems to be getting to her now. Maybe it's that she's getting older – the nerves under pressure can be the first vulnerability. Maybe it's because she's so far ahead of the rest of the field in the rankings that there's not that urgency.
She truly did not know why she lost. It wasn't Cornet's drop shots. It might have been that she didn't serve all that well, or made a few too many errors.
Because this time, it wasn't that she had physical issues as she did in Australia, and as she did in losing to Cornet the last time they met, this past winter in Dubai. It wasn't that she just had a bad day.
Williams went back home to Florida after the loss to Muguruza in Paris motivated to work even harder to prepare for Wimbledon.
"I thought I was playing pretty well. I worked really hard coming into this event. It’s okay. It happens, you work hard, maybe it’s not for today, it’s for tomorrow. Just have to keep going," she said. "This defeat is important to study, because right now I don’t really know what I did wrong, and usually I do. I have a few ideas, but this will be a really good one for me to kind of assess, and figure out what I can do better next time."
It's been a long time since there hasn't been a Williams sister in the second week of Wimbledon. That streak is now broken, although the sisters are still in the doubles.