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Archive for Saturday, January 24, 2004

Raymond stuns third-seeded Williams

January 24, 2004

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— Venus Williams' bid for a big return came to an abrupt end.

Sidelined for six months because of an abdominal injury, Williams breezed through the first two rounds of the Australian Open before being eliminated, 6-4, 7-6 (5), by 25th-seeded Lisa Raymond today.

"I'm pretty much in shock," Williams said. "I definitely had some high hopes to win here."

The third-seeded Williams saved one match point with a backhand crosscourt winner at 4-6 in the tiebreaker, but put a forehand return wide on the next point to end the match. It was the first time Williams hasn't reached the quarterfinals in six trips to the Australian Open. She lost last year's final to her sister, Serena.

It was the biggest upset at the Australian Open since Jennifer Capriati, then defending champion, lost in the first round last year to Marlene Weingartner.

Williams, a four-time Grand Slam champion, had been absent from tournament play since losing the Wimbledon final to Serena last July. She played two exhibition matches in Hong Kong before coming to Melbourne and having straight-sets wins in the first two rounds.

Asked if she was not 100 percent, Williams said: "Everybody has their issues. I don't want to get into it."

For Raymond, a former top-ranked doubles player, it was her first win over Venus Williams, who gave a brief wave to the crowd and quickly walked off the court.

Raymond said it was the match of her life.

"I couldn't ask anything more of myself today," she said. "I think I played an incredible match.

"It's pretty difficult to play someone who is serving like that today. I came into this match knowing I had to step up to the plate and go for it -- I stepped up to the plate and I believed. It's the only way I was going to win."

Williams had 44 unforced errors. Four of her seven double-faults were in the first two games. She got her serve back on track and had 14 aces and 40 winners, but didn't have a match for Raymond's pinpoint forehands.

Raymond, 30, had 23 winners, including 14 on her forehand side. She broke Williams twice to take a 3-0 lead and forced an error to win the first set on her fifth set point.

Raymond had never gone beyond the third-round at Melbourne Park.

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