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Venus Williams’ French Open Ended by Wind and ‘Strange Plays’

Venus Williams of the U.S.
Venus Williams of the U.S. returns the ball to Nadia Petrova of Russia during their women's fourth round match at the French Open tennis championship in Paris. Photographer: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

The wind played havoc with Venus Williams’ outfit at the French Open - and her chances of advancing to the quarterfinals.

The second-seeded American struggled to find her range as she lost to Russia’s Nadia Petrova 6-4, 6-3, in the fourth round.

Wearing a black long-sleeved shirt over her self-designed black-lace corset dress, Williams struggled with wind at Roland Garros, where temperatures had dropped to 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) from 30 degrees Celsius a week ago.

“Today I didn’t find a good rhythm,” Williams said in a news conference. “I had some opportunities in the second, and did some strange plays, not really typical. The conditions aren’t that easy with the rain and the wind. I don’t think I served as well with the wind.”

Moscow-born Petrova, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and leggings, coped with the conditions better as she struck 22 winners. That was 7 more than Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion who has had most of her successes on the faster grass and hard courts and made her only final in Paris in 2002. She last made the quarterfinals in 2006.

“We both played in the same conditions but she just seemed to play a little more consistently,” Williams said.

Williams produced only 2 aces and hit 6 double faults. Petrova had 5 aces and 4 double faults. Williams converted just one of seven breakpoints.

‘Not a Good Day’

“I’m obviously disappointed,” Williams, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, said. “Sometimes it happens. Sometimes when it gets really cold, too, it’s hard to feel the racquet. Especially in Europe it gets really cold. It just wasn’t a good day.”

Williams, 29, had returned to the No. 2 spot for the first time since 2003 two weeks ago. After making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, she won titles in Dubai and Acapulco and was a losing finalist in Miami. During the European clay-court season, she made the quarterfinals of Rome and was a runner-up at the Madrid Masters.

In the past week in Paris, Williams’ bustier-style dress attracted more attention than her tennis, with the American fielding questions from the world’s media about the outfit and its flesh-colored shorts during every news conference.

“I can feel the attention around me,” Williams said earlier in the week, before announcing the dress would be retired after the French Open.

Lace on Court

“As great as the design is, I really want the focus to be on the tennis,” said Williams, who conceives of her own outfits under her clothing label, Eleven. “So obviously wearing lace on the court will still be an amazing innovation, but I’ll have to find a way to try to make it a little less noteworthy, possibly.”

Williams said she now wants to focus her attention on trying to win the women’s doubles with her sister Serena, the women’s top seed. The 28-year-old Serena today plays Israel’s Shahar Peer in the fourth round of the women’s singles draw.

Four-time champion Justine Henin of Belgium faces Australia’s Samantha Stosur while second seed Rafael Nadal plays Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil.

The Williams sisters, the current holders of the doubles titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, could take over the No. 1 ranking in the doubles should they win in Paris. They also won the event in 1999.

After Venus’ loss to the No. 19 seed Petrova, the sisters defeated Czech pair Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-1, 6-2 in the third round.

“Obviously it would be very exciting,” Venus Williams said, when asked where she would rank the calendar Grand Slam in doubles among her achievements. “We tried last year and came close. But it would definitely be at the top. It’s a wonderful thing to add to our resume.”

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