Venus loses leads, first-round match to Makarova
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 the first day 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.
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 to surrender a crucial break in the ninth game.
The 33-year-old Williams, the second-oldest player in the tournament and a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, took some time out after the second set to change her self-designed 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," 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 it was tough opening match, and said it was possibly harder to win than her victory over Serena for that reason.
She will meet another American in the second round after qualifier Irina Falconi beat Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-3, 6-1. The highest-ranked player to lose was 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani, who was beaten 6-3, 6-2 by Julia Gorges of Germany.
Two-time finalist Li Na beat Ana Konjuh of Croatia -- the youngest player in the tournament -- 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes to set up a meeting with another 16-year-old in the next round after Belinda Bencic of Switzerland accounted for 43-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm in three sets.
Date-Krumm was 27 years older than Bencic, the reigning French Open and Wimbledon junior champion.
The 2011 French Open champion is in the same half of the draw as No. 1-ranked Serena Williams, who was scheduled to play a night match against Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty.
Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens was the first woman into the second round when she beat Britain's Laura Robson 6-3, 6-0. No. 9 Angelique Kerber, 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, No. 14 Ana Ivanovic, No. 28 Flavia Pennetta, No. 30 Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and No. 31 Daniela Hantuchova also went through.
American Madison Keys wasted five match points in the second set and another in the third before finally beating Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria 6-2, 6-7 (8), 9-7.
Eighth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, who won the recent Chennai Open in India, was the first man into the next round, advancing after just 15 games when Andrey Golubev retired with an injured left leg.
Wawrinka, who lost 12-10 in the fifth set to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round here last year in the longest Grand Slam match of 2013, was leading 6-4, 6-1 when his Kazakhstan rival quit. Two other players retired due to injuries, with Alex Bogomolov Jr. quitting after losing two sets to No. 15 Fabio Fognini and No. 12 Tommy Haas pulling out when he was down a set and a break against Guilllermo Garcia-Lopez.
Third-ranked David Ferrer opened with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Colombia's Alejandro Gonzalez on Rod Laver Arena and No. 7 Tomas Berdych beat Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Other men advancing included No. 9 Richard Gasquet, No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny, No. 19 Kevin Anderson, No. 23 Ernests Gulbis, No. 29 Jeremy Chardy, No. 32 Ivan Dodig, who beat fellow Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (8), 6-3, 7-6 (4), and American Sam Querrey, who defeated Santiago Giraldo of Colombia, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3).