Serena Williams had been eliminated from the tournament for less than 20 minutes when she climbed into her white Mini Cooper with the chequerboard top and pulled out of the players’ parking lot, fastening her seat belt as she drove.
A hasty departure, for sure.
Williams’ 20-match winning streak at Key Biscayne ended Monday with a 6-7 (7-3) 6-1 6-2 loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of the Miami Open.
Williams was bidding for her ninth title in the event and her fourth in a row. But after a gruelling first set that lasted nearly an hour, the 21-time Grand Slam champion faded on a sweltering afternoon.
This is the first time she hasn’t reached the Key Biscayne quarter-finals since 2000, when she lost in the fourth round to Jennifer Capriati.
“I did the best I could,” Williams said during a postmatch news conference that lasted less than three minutes before she cut it off.
“I can’t win every match. These players come out and play me like they’ve never played before in their lives. I have to be 300 per cent every day.”
Williams, 34, will retain the No.1 ranking, but she hasn’t won a tournament since earning her 69th title at Cincinnati in August – though she reached the final at the Australian Open and at Indian Wells, her only two previous events in 2016.
“She’s still No. 1, and she still plays great,” Kuznetsova said. “I don’t see much to be depressed about.”
The No. 15-seeded Kuznetsova won with defence, extending points until Williams made a mistake. The Russian finished with only 18 unforced errors to 55 for Williams.
In addition, Williams’ serve was uncharacteristically unreliable. She hit 13 aces but also had nine double faults and was broken six times.
Williams said the 91-degree temperature – a record for the date – didn’t faze her.
“Physically I’m fine,” she said. “I don’t know, I guess I didn’t move today. Maybe that was one of the things that didn’t work out for me.”
Kuznetsova, 30, won Key Biscayne 10 years ago and is into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.
“I’m too old,” she told the crowd. “I’ve been many times on this court. I love being back here, and I’m really happy with my performance.”
Also sidelined were No.3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and No.4 Garbine Muguruza. Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, seeded 13th, committed only 12 unforced errors and defeated Muguruza 7-6 (7-6) 7-6 (7-4).
No.19 Timea Bacsinszky eliminated Radwanska 2-6 6-4 6-2.