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MailTribune.com
  • Venus ousted in Australia

  • 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.
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  • 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 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 a 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."
    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 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, who lost finals at Melbourne Park to Victoria Azarenka last year and Kim Clijsters in 2011, says the Australian Open "is my favorite Grand Slam." She's 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, No. 14 Ana Ivanovic, No. 28 Flavia Pennetta, No. 30 Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and No. 31 Daniela Hantuchova also went through.
    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.
    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. 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).
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