World No.1 Serena Williams has blasted herself for a performance “verging on unprofessionalism” after she needed another three sets to get past compatriot Sloane Stephens in the fourth round of the French Open.
Williams beat the unseeded Stephens to reach the quarter-finals, but only after a two-hour encounter on Monday that finished 1-6 7-5 6-3.
Just as against Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam and Victoria Azarenka in the previous two rounds, she needed the shock of losing the first set to jolt her into life.
“It’s not how you start; I guess it’s how you finish. That’s kind of how I’m looking at it,” she said.
“Obviously I’m disappointed. Usually I’m winning in straight sets, and I’m business on and off the court.
“Now I’m just winning, and that’s a good thing too. There’s always room for improvement.
“I feel like I’m living on the edge but, you know, I’ve got to get off the edge.
“I dont like to take chances, but at the same time this is also helping me I guess, in terms of knowing that I can play a two-hour match.
“But yeah, I don’t really like to live like this. Believe me, I’m thinking: ‘Okay Serena, pull yourself together, what do you do? Maybe you should, you know, go for a 5km run before you walk out there, you’ve got to do something to get your energy up in the first couple of points, first couple of games, first sets.’
“So I’m definitely trying to figure that out and I’m not really happy about my performance. It’s ok to go two tough sets, but to go three sets back to back to back is verging on unprofessionalism for me.”
As she continues her bid to win a third French Open crown, following previous successes in 2002 and 2013, Williams now goes on to face Italian 17th seed Sara Errani in the last eight on Wednesday.