LOS ANGELES • Serena Williams had no answer to the most lopsided defeat of her career on Tuesday, losing the final 12 games in a first-round shock by unseeded Johanna Konta at the WTA San Jose event.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner struggled mightily against the British No. 1, who crushed Williams 6-1, 6-0 in just 51 minutes on the main stadium court.
Williams, 36, who was playing her first match since she lost the Wimbledon final to Angelique Kerber last month, is trying to regain her top form after missing most of 2017 due to her pregnancy.
"I don't know. I have so many things on my mind that I don't have time to be shocked about a loss where I clearly wasn't at my best," she said.
"I think she played well in the second set and I think I wasn't sharp at all in the first set. She got confident and she clearly ran away with it."
Williams had never lost a match before where she did not win at least two games since turning professional in 1995. Her previous worst was losing 6-0, 6-2 to Simona Halep during the round-robin stage of the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore. The American, who was seeded sixth, managed just nine winners against 25 unforced errors and had her serve broken six times.
Comparatively, Konta played a superb match with 17 winners, nine unforced errors and won 83 per cent of her first-serve points.
Williams had won this tournament the last three times she played it in 2011, 2012 and 2014 and won her only previous meeting with Konta 6-2, 6-3 in the 2017 Australian Open quarter-finals.
But, on Tuesday, she looked nothing like the player who dominated the Tour for years, winning 72 singles titles and earning more than US$86 million (S$117 million).
"She obviously wasn't playing her best level - nowhere near - so I tried to play on my terms and just do what I can out here," Konta said.
She beat Williams' older sister Venus to win her maiden WTA title at this event in 2016 when it was held at Stanford University.
This was one of Konta's biggest wins, but the 27-year-old said she would not be celebrating too long because there is more work to do.
"I don't believe in big bang moments, or magic moments where the fingers click and it all comes together," she said.
"I believe in continuous hard work and everyday perseverance, putting in the work and trusting the process.
"All this match has given me is the chance to play another one."
Williams falls to 11-4 since returning to the Tour and will look to bounce back when she competes in the Cincinnati Open ahead of the US Open at the end of this month.
She was not the only Grand Slam champion who crashed out on Tuesday. Three-time winner Stan Wawrinka was also shown the exit, going down 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-3) to qualifier Donald Young in the Citi Open first round.
The Swiss is still trying to find fitness and form after two operations on his knee last year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS