PARIS – It seemed, before the day began, that the biggest upset for the Williams sisters appeared to be that it was Venus, not defending champion Serena, who was on the main Court Philippe Chatrier while Serena was on the second-biggest court, Suzanne Lenglen.
A few hours later, that was a minor footnote.
It was always a possibility that one or the other sister would not make their scheduled date in the third round. But if you wanted to make a prediction, you'd probably have picked Venus to be the no-show.
Who could have imagined neither would be there? A pretty drastic way to avoid playing each other, you'd have to say.
"Yeah, I think we both, you know, feel – I mean, I felt like this was a match that I was most likely going to win. I'm sure – I don't know how Serena felt, but I'm sure she feels like that every time she goes on the court. So I think our expectation was to play in the next round," Williams said after losing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to 19-year-old Slovak Anna Schmiedlova, a player not even considered for one of the singles spots on the first day of the country's Fed Cup tie against Canada last month.
As that was wrapping up, Serena was warming up across the grounds at Lenglen against Spanish-Venezuelan youngster Garbiñe Muguruza, a player perhaps unheralded in North America but who, on evidence of her getting a wild card into the big tournament in Miami at age 16, certainly has had the eye of movers and shakers for a long time.
\Muguruza, just 20 and just out of a seeded spot with her ranking of No. 35, didn't just beat Serena. She thrashed her. At the one-hour mark, Serena was serving to stay IN the match at 2-6, 1-5, and eventually went down 6-2, 6-2.
Mere moments later, tennis dress and bandanna still on, practically still sweating, Williams was in her press conference trying to make sense of it. Put this in the context of most players – including Williams – taking a full hour or more to do ... whatever they think they have to do before coming in to do press, that's a remarkably quick turnaround.
"Well, I don't think anything worked for me today, which is just nothing really worked. I don't know anything that actually worked," Williams said. "I was just – I just can't serve. I mean, my serve hasn't been good yet. I can't say this whole tournament, because my tournament didn't last long, but yeah, just in general."
If she seemed fairly zen about it, it's because she knows what this feeling is like; she had a similar experience two years ago here, when she lost 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 to Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano in the first round.
The difference here, beyond it being the second round, is that Williams had every opportunity to win that Razzano match despite the drama. Against Muguruza, she was never in it. Actually, she was pretty out of it.
By the end, Williams was practically quick-serving her opponent in her seeming haste to get off the court. And yet, she had lovely things to say to her opponent at the net, and a big smiles, when it was over.
Who wins, after the double Williams knockout?
Well, Muguruza, who had the perfect reaction to the win – she was thrilled, but didn't act as though she'd won the whole tournament. And Schmiedlova, who was simply in shock. And, most especially, No. 7 seed Maria Sharapova.
Sharapova was draw to play Serena Williams in the quarter-finals; she now no longer has to even contemplate the looming specter of that and all the baggage it brings with it.
"My first few months I don't think have been great at all. I haven't gotten past the fourth round of a Grand Slam this year," Williams said. "I have a couple words to describe it, but I think that would be really inappropriate so I'm going to leave it at that."
As for the rest of the field, watch your backs. Everyone remembers what happened after that loss to Razzano here two years. Serena took it personally.
"I think she played really well and she played really smart. You know, it's great, because I'm going to go home and work five times as hard to make sure I never lose again," Williams said, ominously for the rest of the field. "I have actually never seen (Muguruza) play like this. So, you know, we'll see if she – hopefully she can keep it up, keep her form up and continue to play like this."