Williamses Face Defeat at French Open

The Williams sisters have fled Roland Garros.

"I need to go home," said Serena.

"We're goin' home," said Venus.

Uncharacteristically subdued, both seemed crushed by their abrupt dismissal from one of the crown jewels of the international tennis tour, a tour they dominated until suffering injuries and career distractions.

The French, who take their tennis very seriously, have been glued to news from Roland Garros for nine days.

From the vantage point of Sylvie Bajum's television-video store a few blocks from the stadiums, it was useless for Serena Williams to try to win the French Open this year anyway.

Madame Bajum watched the final points from inside the shop she operates with her husband, Daniel, as Jennifer Capriati carved out her three-set victory over Serena Williams.

"Oh, it's the father!" she said in French, as national television replayed match point with a split screen view of Capriati's father grimacing and his daughter struggling and stroking. At the final stroke, the American broke into an immense grin, shouted, and raised his arms.

Bajum smiled too. She doesn't play tennis, she said, but enjoys watching it. For eight days, the tournament has blanketed the nation's television screens. She sells the sets — the big wide ones — growing more popular here.

As I handed her 3 Euros (about $3.75 U.S.) for a converter plug for my computer, she reflected, with no prompting, on the young American woman who had just lost her bid for a second title here.

"Williams, she doesn't seem to have the luck," she said, stretching my ability to translate to the limit.

"Why?" I asked.

"Je ne sais pas [I don't know]," she said, and smiled. My halting French refused me the words for a further interrogation.

So, whether it is the downsizing effect of clay on Williams's booming strokes or some mysterious Gallic hex, an American reporter couldn't coax a reason from Bajum.

Later, a few blocks away inside the grounds of Roland Garros, Serena Williams shrugged off a question about the attitude of French fans toward her.

"I don't really care whether people cheer or boo for me because everything's not always going to be perfect," she said. "Things aren't always going to be down all the time."

As for Bajum's comments, there wasn't much to say. The Williams sisters were going home.