No repeat letdown for Serena
There was no plausible way, really -- barring injury or even a weird, science-fiction body snatch of Anna Tatishvili by Lukas Rosol -- that Serena Williams, after losing in the first round at Roland Garros to Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano a year ago, would again be caught unaware by a low-ranked opponent.
Williams was not going to be surprised or overconfident. The issue would simply be how long she would stay on the court.
The answer was exactly 51 minutes.
In her first match at Roland Garros in 2013, Williams destroyed Anna Tatishvili 6-0, 6-1. The formula was a high-octane dose of what Williams does to so many of her opponents: crushing winners off the backhand with pace or angle or both, off the forehand down the line or behind her opponent, or off the serve with demoralizing return winners that, against Tatishvili, were often returned to sender with more pace than the original offering – even off the first serve.
The gap between Williams' serve and the competition will be the dominant theme of this tournament, and so it was against Tatishvili. Williams trailed in a service game only once, and it was when she was serving for the match, when Tatishvili returned a short reply for a backhand winner for 15-30. It was also the last point Tatishvili would win in the match. Williams never faced a break point. She fired eight aces and won 88 percent of her first serves.
The major difference, once more, was in unreturned serves and the combination of free points Williams is afforded. Forty-one percent (13-of-32) of Williams' serves never came back, forcing Tatishvili into the virtually impossible task of beating Serena on groundstroke rallies alone. That, or hoping Williams beat herself with unforced errors. She didn't. Williams hit 27 winners against 14 unforced errors.
On the other side, Tatishvili did not record a single ace and double-faulted three times. By simply putting the ball back in play, Williams gave herself a virtually unplayable advantage. Tatishvili returned only 59 percent of Williams' serves. Williams returned 82 percent of Tatishvili's. When balls were in play, Tatishvili hit four winners against 22 unforced errors. Tatishvili's first winner occurred in the fourth game of the second set, when she was already down 6-0, 3-0.
It was a royal beatdown that pushed the L'Affaire Razzano deeper into history.