PARIS — Serena Williams' quest for a 24th Grand Slam title ended with her earliest loss at a major tournament in five years.
Williams was outplayed in the third round of the French Open by 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin, who used clean, deep groundstrokes to put together the 6-2, 7-5 upset Saturday.
It was the second significant surprise in a matter of hours: Earlier in the day, No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka was eliminated 6-4, 6-2 by 42nd-ranked Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic. That ended Osaka's 16-match Grand Slam winning streak, which included titles at the U.S. Open final in September — when she beat Williams in the final — and at the Australian Open in January.
Osaka was trying to become the first woman to win three consecutive major trophies since Williams grabbed four in a row in 2014-15, a run that was preceded by a second-round loss at Roland Garros and a third-round loss at Wimbledon.
Since those early-for-her defeats, Williams had won six of the 14 majors she entered to surpass Steffi Graf's professional-era record of 22 Grand Slam singles championships. With 23, Williams stands one away from Margaret Court's mark for the most in tennis history; Court played in both the professional and amateur eras.
Williams, who is 37, sat out four Slams in 2017-18 while she was off the tour to have a baby. Her first major tournament back was last year's French Open, where she withdrew before a fourth-round match because of a chest muscle injury. She went on to reach the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, before wasting match points during a quarterfinal loss at the Australian Open.
Williams came to Paris having played only four matches since then; she withdrew from two tournaments because of an injured left knee and another because of illness.
She struggled through her opening match at the French Open, which she has won three times, and again against the 35th-ranked Kenin, who never before had made it to the round of 16 at a major.
But Kenin played quite well, never showing a trace of nerves. It was Williams whose strokes were off-target: Her 34 unforced errors were twice as many as Kenin's total.
Remarkably, Kenin broke Williams four times, while only ceding one of her own service games.