ECSTASY and euphoria are the usual emotions world No. 1 Serena Williams experiences on a tennis court. Yesterday, she encountered a different one - embarrassment.
One of the sport's all-time greats, a winner of 18 Grand Slam singles crowns, 63 WTA titles, owner of four Olympic gold medals, she has become accustomed to success.
But on the purple indoor hard court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday, Simona Halep took the American back 16 years: to a time when, as a teenager, Williams was trying to make a name for herself.
Halep's 6-0, 6-2 success in their Red Group clash at the WTA Finals was the worst defeat Williams had experienced since she was crushed 6-1, 6-1 by Joannette Kruger in the quarter-finals at Oklahoma City in 1998.
Romanian world No. 4 Halep served well, pushed her opponent around the court and went for her shots, while Williams, by her own admission, was woeful.
"My forehand was off today again. I guess it went on an early vacation," the sombre and downbeat American told reporters.
"Lord knows, my serve was as well. My serve, I don't even know. My serve was at best in the 10-and-under division in juniors.
"Yeah, it was actually embarrassing...very embarrassing."
Williams, who has won the title the last two years, had shown no sign of what was to come when she opened her campaign with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ana Ivanovic on Monday. It was her 16th consecutive win in the season-ending championships.
It was also the first time she had been in action since pulling out of the Wuhan Open because of illness, then the China Open with a knee complaint, earlier this month.
However, she did not blame the knee ailment, which had required extensive rest, for yesterday's meltdown.
"I'm definitely not 100 per cent okay. I'm just here playing, but I'm nowhere near 100 per cent," she said. "That has nothing to do with today's match. I think Simona played really well and the best match of her career."
Williams scrambled for a solution during their 65 minutes on court, shrieking at herself, jumping around in between points and going through at least four rackets to find something that worked. All proved fruitless.
She said: "I'm obviously frustrated and I wanted to do better...That didn't work out for me. But it's okay. You know, things are going and I'm still going to come back and I'm going to be better."
She will be back on court tonight, hoping to prove that as she takes on Eugenie Bouchard of Canada with a place in the semi-finals on the line.