Serena Williams was eliminated from the Family Circle Cup on Tuesday, stunned 6-4, 6-4 by Jana Cepelova of Slovakia in the second round, while Hsieh Su-wei’s poor form in the singles continued as she exited in the first round.
“I’m really just dead. I need some weeks off where I don’t think about tennis and kind of regroup,” Williams said after her match. “I’ve had a long couple of years and I’m really a little fatigued.”
Williams, the top seed and defending champion in Charleston, South Carolina, was looking for her second straight title and her third this year after winning a record seventh Sony Open at the weekend, but with only 18 minutes gone in the match she was down 0-5 on the green clay at the Family Circle Tennis Center.
Williams rallied, winning four straight games surrendering only six points and it looked like Cepelova’s lead would be short-lived, but the 20-year-old came back and, holding serve in the final game, was able to win the set.
Williams said later she felt emotionally and physically spent.
“Definitely a little bit of both, but again, I think Jana played really well for her today,” she said. “The good thing is I know I can play a lot better. So it’s always really positive for me.”
Cepelova’s run out to a quick lead silenced the crowd, which was in the American defending champion’s corner.
“I have 5-0 and I was a little bit nervous, but I did it,” said Cepelova, ranked 78th in world.
China’s Shuai Zhang outlasted Hsieh 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/0), leaving the Taiwanese player to concentrate on the doubles. Doubles world No. 2 Hsieh is teaming up with world No. 1 Peng Shuai of China as the No. 1-seeded duo look to bounce back from the disappointment of their first-round exit at the Sony Open.
Back in the singles, Williams’ sister, Venus, also struggled on Tuesday, but edged Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 0-6, 7-5.
“I’ve actually been pretty sick lately — I’ve been having like a bug,” Venus Williams said after the match that lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes. “You just have to play your way into the week and just continue to feel better.”
Venus Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, has battled injuries and Sjogren’s syndrome, a fatigue-causing autoimmune disease, during the past two years.
“I haven’t gotten rid of it. I wish I could have. Unfortunately, it just clings to me,” Venus Williams said. “I’ve just learned to handle it mentally and also I try to do things all the time, just always going for optimal health.”
Venus Williams seemed in control of the match after she won the first set, surrendering only two points in her last two service games, but world No. 56 Zahlavova Strycova rattled off seven straight games to shut out the world No. 28 in the second set and go up 1-0 in the third.
Venus Williams rallied for a 5-4 lead in the third set, but Zahlavova Strycova fought off four match points to tie it at 5-5. The American then earned a break in the next game — helped by a final-point double fault — and held at love to win the match.
Venus Williams staved off what could have been her earliest exit at the Family Circle Cup. She is making her seventh appearance at the tournament she won a decade ago.
Also on Tuesday, No. 9. seed Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic defeated Virginie Razzano of France 2-6, 6-4, 6-4; Vania King of the US beat Julia Glushko 4-6, 7-5, 6-3; Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia defeated wild-card Shelby Rogers of the US 7-5, 7-5; and No. 13 seed Elena Vesnina of Russia cruised past Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-1.