Serena Williams encountered a stumbling block on her road to the French Open, while Rafael Nadal is moving on to add to what's already a record title haul in Rome.
Both stars were in action Wednesday at the 2021 Italian Open, with the event serving as one of the final tune-ups before players travel to Paris for the second Grand Slam of the season.
Men's Singles Results
No. 1 Rafael Nadal def. Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-4
Aslan Karatsev def. No. 3 Daniil Medvedev 6-2, 6-4
No. 4 Dominic Thiem def. Marton Fucsovics 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-0
No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas def. Marin Cilic 7-5, 6-2
No. 6 Alexander Zverev def. Hugo Dellien 6-2, 6-2
No. 7 Andrey Rublev def. Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-4
No. 9 Matteo Berrettini def. John Millman 6-4, 6-2
No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut def. Cristian Garin 7-6(5), 6-3
Federico Delbonis def. No. 12 David Goffin 6-2, 6-1
No. 13 Denis Shapovalov def. Stefano Travaglia 7-6(2), 6-3
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina def. Cameron Norrie 6-2, 6-3
Lorenzo Sonego def. Gianluca Mager 6-4, 6-4
Women's Singles Results
No. 1 Ashleigh Barty def. Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 6-1
Jessica Pegula def. No. 2 Naomi Osaka 7-6(2), 6-2
Angelique Kerber def. No. 3 Simona Halep 1-6, 3-3(ret.)
Barbora Krejcikova def. No. 4 Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-4
No. 5 Elina Svitolina def. Amanda Anisimova 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka def. Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-5, 6-1
Nadia Podoroska def. No. 8 Serena Williams 7-6(6), 7-5
No. 9 Karolina Pliskova def. Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 6-3
Vera Zvonareva def. No. 11 Petra Kvitova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
No. 12 Garbine Muguruza def. Bernarda Pera 2-6, 6-0, 7-5
Ekaterina Alexandrova def. No. 13 Jennifer Brady (walkover)
No. 15 Iga Swiatek def. Madison Keys 7-5, 6-1
Petra Martic def. Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova def. Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-4
Coco Gauff def. Maria Sakkari 6-1, 1-6, 6-1
Jelena Ostapenko def. Ajla Tomljanovic 6-2, 7-6(3)
Wednesday wasn't a good time to be a seeded player in the women's singles draw. Williams was one of four in the top 10 to exit the tournament, though Simona Halep's defeat was due to a calf injury.
Her status for the French Open might be in doubt as well as the 2018 champion announced she has a tear in her left calf:
Elsewhere, Sofia Kenin was unable to rebound from a poor first set and lost to Barbora Krejcikova. The opposite was true of Naomi Osaka, who went to a first-set tiebreaker with Jessica Pegula and then wilted in the second.
One poor result isn't necessarily a cause for concern ahead of a major tournament. For Williams, however, her performance Wednesday might be a bad omen heading into Roland Garros.
The 39-year-old doesn't keep up a full-time schedule. The Italian Open was her first WTA event since the Australian Open in February. A level of rust was apparent as she committed 18 unforced errors in the second set alone, per WTATennis.com.
"I have been training for months, but it feels definitely different on clay to make that last adjustment," Williams said after the match. "Just filling out the game, finding the rhythm. Even sliding and confidence with that, with movement. ... That's always like a little struggle in the first two matches, and then I'm raring to go."
While a three-time French Open champion, Paris is where Williams has historically struggled the most. Her last quarterfinal appearance was in 2016. Nobody will count her out completely, but the absence of competitive matches relative to her competitors is likely to be an issue:
The men's draw didn't provide anywhere near the same kind of surprises. Aslan Karatsev sent No. 3 Daniil Medvedev packing. Fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem dropped his first set against Marton Fucsovics and needed a tiebreaker to stay alive in the second before rolling to victory in the third.
Nadal encountered some stiff resistance from Jannik Sinner.
Sinner broke the 20-time Grand Slam champion's serve in the first set, which set the tone in a match where neither player could enjoy a lead for very long. Nadal immediately broke back in the second game, and the reverse happened across the fifth and sixth games.
Down 5-6 and serving to force a tiebreaker, Sinner successfully fought off three break-point opportunities before Nadal took the set.
The 19-year-old Italian jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the second frame before Nadal responded with a pair of service breaks to reel off four straight games.
The 34-year-old will meet No. 13 Denis Shapovalov in the third round on Thursday, so the road to a 10th Italian Open triumph won't get any easier from here.