*Venus Williams was let down by her serve and her concentration at crucial times on Day 1 of the Australian Open. She was eliminated from the tournament after losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to no. 22-seeded Ekaterina Makarova.
Meanwhile, Serena appeared as polished as ever in beating Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty, reports ESPN. The top-ranked Williams won her 23rd consecutive match — including 18 at the end of last season and four last week in winning the Brisbane International — after beating Barty 6-2, 6-1 in 57 minutes.
Venus had chances in the second set, 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 Slam 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.
Venus has struggled with injuries and illness in recent seasons, but she 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,” Venus said.
That didn’t happen Monday.
“My level was a little bit too up-and-down. Obviously my error count was a little high,” she said. “I have to give her a lot of credit, though, she was very determined, played hard.”
It was only the second time in 14 appearances that Williams lost in the first round at the Australian Open, where her best run remains a loss to her sister in the 2003 final.
Contrastly, Serena Williams continues to be in rarefied territory. Her Brisbane title was the 58th of her career — she won 11 last year, including the French Open and US Open. A five-time winner of the Australian Open, she’s trying to end Victoria Azarenka’s two-year run as women’s champion.
“Obviously I’d love to win again in Melbourne,” Serena said.
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