Melbourne, Australia • Just as she was starting to show glimpses of returning to form, Venus Williams was let down by her serve and her concentration at crucial times and lost 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to Ekaterina Makarova on day one of the Australian Open.
The No. 22-seeded Makarova upset Serena Williams in the fourth round here in 2012, but was comprehensively outplayed in the first set against the elder of the Williams sisters on Monday, dropping serve three times.
Australian OpenFirst round
Monday, 7 p.m. and 1 a.m., ESPN2
Williams had chances in the second set, too, missing a break-point opportunity to go up 4-2, and then serving three consecutive double-faults after leading the ninth game 40-30 to surrender a crucial break.
The 33-year-old Williams, the second-oldest player in the tournament and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, took some time out after the second set to change her zebra-striped dress and came back strongly, taking a 3-0 lead. But Makarova rallied again and Williams’ error count rose — she had 21 of her 56 unforced errors in the deciding set.
She has struggled with injuries and illness in recent seasons but reached the final of the WTA event at Auckland to open the year and said after arriving at Melbourne Park that she was feeling better than she had in years.
"The last 12 months I have had issues, but this year I definitely am looking forward to having a good run and feeling well."
That didn’t happen Monday.
"My level was a little bit too up and down. Obviously my error count was a little high," Williams said. "I have to give her a lot of credit, though, she was very determined, played hard."
Makarova will meet another American in the second round after qualifier Irina Falconi beat Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-3, 6-1.
Two-time finalist Li Na beating Ana Konjuh of Croatia — the youngest player in the tournament — 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.
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