PARIS – Early on, Serena Williams knocked dirt from her shoes by angrily whacking them with her racket, as if punishing the clay that keeps tripping her up at the French Open.
The top-ranked Williams lost in the quarterfinals Wednesday, squandering a match point and losing to Australian spoiler Samantha Stosur, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6.
The upset was the second in a row for the No. 7-seeded Stosur, and the third in as many days at Roland Garros. Stosur ended four-time champion Justine Henin's Roland Garros winning streak at 24 matches in the fourth round.
On the men's side Tuesday, top-ranked Roger Federer lost to Robin Soderling.
Then Williams made her exit, with stretches of brilliant tennis by Stosur hastening the departure. The Australian, long regarded as a doubles specialist, used her forceful forehand to build a lead, winning 17 consecutive points during one stretch.
Williams mounted one of her patented comebacks, and as the tension built in an error-filled third set, she needed only one point in the 10th game for the victory.
Her forehand sailed an inch long.
Stosur then regained her early form. She hit consecutive cross-court winners to break for a 7-6 lead, then served out the victory, hitting service winners on the final three points.
It was Williams' first Grand Slam loss since her meltdown in the semifinals of the U.S. Open last September against Kim Clijsters. This time she directed any anger only at herself — and her shoes.
In rallies she often seemed hesitant, indecisive and on the defensive, pinned deep by Stosur's big forehand and slice backhands. Williams hit one backhand that barely reached the bottom of the net, took an awkward swing at an overhead and flubbed a forehand putaway in the forecourt.
In Tuesday's quarterfinals, Soderling played the role of French Open spoiler yet again. The big-swinging Swede ended Federer's record streak of reaching 23 consecutive major semifinals by winning 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
A year ago, Soderling beat four-time champion Rafael Nadal to clear Federer's path to his first French Open title and a career Grand Slam.
If this keeps up, Soderling's victories won't be upsets anymore.
"I didn't think I played a bad match," Federer said. "He came up with some great tennis. It's much easier to digest this way."
Soderling's opponent Friday will be No. 15-seeded Tomas Berdych, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist and the first player from the Czech Republic to reach the Roland Garros semifinals since 1992. Berdych, who beat No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, has won all 15 of his sets in the tournament.
There's the tantalizing prospect that the final Sunday will be Nadal-Soderling rematch. Nadal was to play fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals Wednesday, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia was to face first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
Federer went in undefeated in 12 matches against Soderling, including a victory in straight sets in last year's final. But Soderling has become more consistent with his thunderous groundstrokes, and he began the tournament with a No. 5 seeding, his highest ever at a Grand Slam event.
"The biggest improvement on the men's tour in the last two years is Robin Soderling's head," said three-time French Open champion Mats Wilander, a fellow Swede. "He believes in himself because he has worked harder than probably anyone to get to where he is."
Federer played some terrific defense, chasing down one shot in a corner near the exit. But opportunities to take the offensive seldom arose.
On match point, the 6-foot-4 Soderling hit a second serve that Federer couldn't put in play. Soderling walked to the net with his fist up as if ready to continue the fight, then pumped it to punctuate the breakthrough against his nemesis — and everyone else's.
"This is a big win, but it's not the final," Soderling said. "I don't want to celebrate too much. I want to focus on the next game."
On the women's side Thursday, No. 5-seeded Elena Dementieva will play No. 17 Francesca Schiavone, the first Italian woman to reach the French Open semifinals since 1954. Dementieva has won six of their 10 matches, including the past three.
Schiavone advanced when she upset third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-2, 6-3. Dementieva overcame a sore right thigh to beat fellow Russian Nadia Petrova 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.
The men's semifinal round will be the first at a Grand Slam tournament without Federer since he lost in the third round of the 2004 French Open to Gustavo Kuerten. That's the last time he lost to anyone other than Nadal at Roland Garros.
Until Tuesday, Federer had seemed unbeatable against Soderling, winning 28 of 30 sets.
"I didn't think about it that much," Soderling said. "You will come closer to winning eventually."