Serena Williams’ 20-match winning streak at Key Biscayne ended on Monday with a 6-7, 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 grueling first set that lasted nearly an hour, the No1 seed Williams 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. Williams, 34, hasn’t won a tournament since earning her 69th title at Cincinnati in August.
“I did the best I could,” she said after her defeat. “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% every day.”
The No15 seed Kuznetsova won thanks to her defensive skills, 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 muggy weather 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 quarter-finals 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.”
The No2 seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, lost to No. 19 Timea Bacsinszky 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The defeat was only the fourth in 21 matches this year for Radwanska.
Williams lives 90 minutes from Key Biscayne and has long considered the event her home tournament. But the stadium was two-thirds empty for her match, partly because of weather so uncomfortable some spectators draped towels over their heads seeking refuge from the sweltering sun.
Williams played a flawless tiebreaker, hitting two aces and three other winners. But after she lost serve to fall behind 3-1 in the second set, her play became more flat-footed. At least twice she failed to pursue shots from Kuznetsova.
In the third set Williams tried hitting balls as hard as she could, and some went for winners. But she double-faulted to fall behind 4-1, and Kuznetsova held twice to close out the victory.
There was no smiling by either player as they met at the net to shake hands. Kuznetsova improved to 3-8 against Williams and beat her for the first time since the 2009 French Open quarter-finals.