Venus Williams Loses in Australian Open 1st Round
By John Pye
MELBOURNE, Australia — Venus Williams was moving freely in her first-round match at the Australian Open, breezing through the first set and getting a look at another break in the second against a player who upset her sister here two years ago.
That’s when things started to go wrong for her the first day of the season-opening major. The seven-time Grand Slam champion missed the break-point chance in the sixth game and then, after getting to 40-30 on serve in the ninth, inexplicably firing three consecutive double-faults to surrender a break and just about the set to No. 22-seeded Ekaterina Makarova.
After a quick break and a change of her self-designed zebra print dress, she took a 3-0 lead in the third before her unforced error toll climbed to 56 and Makarova won six of the next seven games for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.
The 33-year-old Williams, the second-oldest player in the tournament, has struggled with injuries and illness in recent seasons but reached the final of the WTA event at Auckland to start 2014 and came to Melbourne saying she was feeling better than she had in years.
“The last 12 months I have had issues,” she said. “But this year I definitely am looking forward to having a good run and feeling well.”
That didn’t happen.
“My level was a little bit too up and down. Obviously my error count was a little high,” said Williams, the 2003 finalist who was playing in her 14th Australian Open. “I have to give her a lot of credit, though, she was very determined … played hard.”
Makarova said because it was the first match of the tournament, it was probably more difficult to beat Venus than it was to upset Serena Williams in the fourth round here in 2012.