May 13, 2021
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Serena Williams, playing the 1 000th Tour-level match of her glittering career, suffered a shock 7-6(6) 7-5 defeat by Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska in the the Italian Open second round on Wednesday.

Playing her first competitive match in nearly three months, the 23-times Grand Slam champion twice came back from a break down but struggled on her first serve as Podoroska took the opening set in the tiebreak.

Podoroska, who reached the French Open semifinals last year, produced a string of heavy topspin forehands to take control of the match with an early break in the second set.

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Although Podoroska was broken to love on her first attempt to serve out the match, she maintained her composure to break again and secure a place in the round of 16.

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Defeat for Williams, who received an opening round bye in Rome, was a major blow to her preparations for the French Open, starting on 30 May.

It was the American’s 149th defeat in her 1 000 career WTA matches.

World number two Naomi Osaka also crashed out of the tournament, losing 7-6(2) 6-2 to American Jessica Pegula.

Osaka, a four-times Grand Slam winner, has often struggled on clay and her defeat in Rome followed a second-round loss at the Madrid Open this month

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