PARIS (Reuters) - Virginie Razzano spent an evening studying opponent Serena Williams on YouTube and Google and it paid off spectacularly as she triumphed in her French Open “boxing match” against the formidable American.
The Frenchwoman won 4-6 7-6 6-3 after a thrilling three-hour fight on Tuesday to hand the 13-times major champion her first opening round defeat at a grand slam.
Home hope Razzano first had to swallow her disappointment to be drawn against the fifth-seeded Serena.
“When I saw my draw I was a bit bitter because I thought, ‘Wow, again a very tough draw. Every year I have to play the top one player’,” she told a news conference.
But the world number 111, who reached 16th in the WTA rankings in September 2009, vowed to fight and made sure she was ready.
“I watched the videos on Google and YouTube two days ago. I watched her matches in Rome. All this needs preparation,” the 29-year-old explained.
”I came onto the court as a puncher. I was going to box on the court. I know how she plays and I was prepared.
“When you play a player like her, you can’t just go and play without preparing yourself.”
Prepared she was, opening up a 4-2 lead playing aggressive tennis that put the usually dominant Serena on the back foot.
Quickly, however, things started to spin out of control as her illustrious opponent turned up the heat to claim the opening set and break early in the second.
“Of course when I played the first set I was up 4-2 and then 4-all. Of course I felt a lot of emotions on the court there,” Razzano said.
”It was difficult to control. This is also because I didn’t have many matches under my belt. Sometimes I should have hurt her a bit more.
“I should have been more aggressive on the important points and I wasn’t able to do that. On top of it, I was playing in front of my own crowd.”
Razzano then fell 5-1 down in the second set tiebreak as Serena seemed set for a routine win, but the Frenchwoman was not about to let it go.
“I always thought it was possible to win, even in the tiebreak,” she said.
“I wanted to give myself the chance of winning it. I went as far as I could and I think I won it as a champion.”
The Dijon-born player then got a warning and a penalty point for shouting in the final 25-minute game but that did not prevent her from going all the way as she prevailed on her eighth match point.
Razzano, who lost her fiance to a brain tumour a year ago, would not dwell on the past.
“Honestly, the past is the past. I think now I did my mourning. I feel good today. It took time,” she said.
”I also worked with someone who helped me making progress and helped me maybe start something else, something new. I felt I was ready to go ahead and live my life professionally and personally.
“So is it destiny? Is it fate? I don’t know. I wanted to win that match.”
Editing by Mark Meadows