AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
PARIS: Twelve months ago, Virginie Razzano arrived at Roland Garros mourning her fiance who died just five days before the tournament started.
On Tuesday, she opened a new emotional chapter in her French Open story when she sent 13-time Grand Slam title winner Serena Williams crashing to her first ever loss in an opening round at a Grand Slam.
Such was the challenge that the 29-year-old couldn't sleep for three nights before the match.
It was a clash which had looked like a routine victory for the American when she led by a set and 5-1 in the second set tiebreaker, but through sheer willpower became a memorable 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 victory for Razzano.
Adding to the drama and tension was the 29-year-old needing an eighth match point to finish proceedings in a marathon ninth game of the final set after three hours of action on a spellbound Philippe Chatrier court.
"I did my mourning," said Razzano, as she reflected on the events of a year ago when her coach and fiance Stephane Vidal passed away at the age of just 32.
"It took time, but I worked with somebody and I felt I was ready to live my life both professionally and personally again.
"Was it destiny for me to win tonight? I don't know but I wanted to win so much," added the player ranked 111 in the world.
The loss was the 30-year-old Williams' first exit at the opening round stage of her 47-event Grand Slam career and earliest defeat at a major since she was knocked out of the Australian Open second round by sister Venus in 1998.
"I was cramping at the end but I knew I could beat her. I said 'don't give up'. I couldn't sleep properly for three nights before the match," added Razzano.
"I even watched Serena on Google and YouTube. I kept telling myself that when I step on court I could do it, I could win."
She also used the knowledge of her 2007 Tokyo final victory over Venus Williams to fuel her ambition and belief.
Just like Tuesday, there she had also been a set down but battled back to win.
"I think I made Venus suffer in that match. That was three sets and three hours. They have won Grand Slams and are great champions.
"But this is the most beautiful win of my career and shows that if you have problems in life, you can work hard to get things right."
Serena, the 2002 champion, was philosophical in defeat, despite losing her 46-0 winning record in Grand Slam first round matches.
"I'm disappointed, but that's life, things could be worse," said Williams, who missed last year's Roland Garros as she battled life-threatening blood clots in her lungs.
"I've been through so much in my life. I'm not sitting here happy. I've gotta figure out what I did wrong and not do it again. I fought until the end."
Williams came into the tournament on a 17-0 winning streak on clay in 2012 with titles in Charleston and Madrid, making her one of the favourites for the title here.