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Venus loses at Aussie Open

– Venus Williams lost in the first round at the Australian Open for only the second time, with her serve and concentration letting her down when it counted most in a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 defeat to Ekaterina Makarova today.

Also, Li Na, twice a runner-up at the Australian Open, including last year, beat Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.

Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, breezed through the first set against the No. 22-seeded Makarova, who had an upset win over Serena Williams in the fourth round at the 2012 Australian Open.

Williams had chances in the second, 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 break.

Williams led 3-0 in the third set but Makarova rallied strongly to advance to the second round. Williams was playing the Australian Open for the 14th time.

“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.”

Williams wasn’t the only significant player to lose.

Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest singles player the draw at age 43, lost to Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Meantime, No. 8-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka was the first man through to the second 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 here last year in the longest Grand Slam match of 2013, was leading 6-4, 6-1 when his Kazakhstan rival quit. Golubev took a medical time out and had his lower left leg taped when he was down 5-2 in the first.

No. 18-seeded Kirsten Flipkens, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, was the first woman to advance when she beat Britain’s Laura Robson 6-3, 6-0. In another fast-finishing first-rounder, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic had a 6-0, 6-1 win over French wild card Pauline Parmentier.

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