Venus crashes out of first round of Australian Open

Sun Jan 12, 2014 11:57pm EST
 
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A promising start to the season for Venus Williams was undone in two-and-a-half hours on Monday as the 33-year-old crashed out of the Australian Open's opening round with a crushing defeat to her sister Serena's 2012 nemesis Ekaterina Makarova.

Making her 61st grand slam appearance and 14th at Melbourne Park, the American had arrived Down Under with an encouraging run to the final of the Auckland Classic, raising hopes of a fresh start after recent seasons blighted by injury and illness.

On a sunbathed Margaret Court Arena, the former world number one displayed the power and aggression of her halcyon days to roar through the opening set, but it was the uncertain, shaky Venus of recent vintage that ultimately collapsed to a 2-6 6-4 6-4 loss, having taken a 3-0 lead in the third.

Williams, who suffers from Sjogren's Syndrome which causes fatigue and joint pain, was hampered by back problems last year but declined to blame health issues for the loss. She could hardly have done so.

Throwing herself around the court with the enthusiasm of a teenager, her struggles were largely self-inflicted as she gave up a decisive break in the second set with three successive double-faults and suffered another serving meltdown with victory begging in the third.

"I think obviously I think my error count was a little high," Williams told reporters.

"I was hitting the ball well this week, and, you know, obviously it was disappointing to not win the first round.

"I have to give her a lot of credit. She was really determined, and, you know, just kept playing hard. I think any time you're seeded you just really want to win the first round."   Continued...

 
Ekaterina Makarova of Russia eyes the ball during her women's singles match against Venus Williams of the U.S. at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 13, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed